America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can’t ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can’t lose what you lacked at conception.
Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight. Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight.
The real Trinity of Camelot was Look Good, Kick Ass, Get Laid. Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab.
Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame. It’s time to dislodge his urn and cast light on a few men who attended his ascent and facilitated his fall.
They were rogue cops and shakedown artists. They were wiretappers and soldiers of fortune and faggot lounge entertainers. Had one second of their lives deviated off course, American History would not exist as we know it.
It’s time to demythologize an era and build a new myth from the gutter to the stars. It’s time to embrace bad men and the price they paid to secretly define their time.
Here’s to them.
S H A K E D O W N S
P e t e B o n d u r a n t
(Beverly Hills, 11/22/58)
He always shot up by TV light.
Some spics waved guns. The head spic plucked bugs from his beard and fomented. Black amp; white footage; CBS geeks in jungle fatigues. A newsman said, Cuba, bad juju-Fidel Castro’s rebels vs. Fulgencio Batista’s standing army.
Howard Hughes found a vein and mainlined codeine. Pete watched on the sly-Hughes left his bedroom door ajar.
The dope hit home. Big Howard went slack-faced.
Room service carts clattered outside. Hughes wiped off his spike and ffipped channels. The “Howdy Doody” show replaced the news-standard Beverly Hills Hotel business.
Pete walked out to the patio-pool view, a good bird-dog spot. Crappy weather today: no starlet types in bikinis.
He checked his watch, antsy.
He had a divorce gig at noon-the husband drank lunch alone and dug young cooze. Get quality flashbulbs: blurry photos looked like spiders fucking. On Hughes’ timecard: find out who’s hawking subpoenas for the TWA antitrust divestment case and bribe them into reporting that Big Howard blasted off for Mars.
Crafty Howard put it this way: “I’m not going to fight this divestment, Pete. I’m simply going to stay incommunicado indefinitely and force the price up until I have to sell. I’m tired of TWA anyway, and I’m not going to sell until I can realize at least five hundred million dollars.”
He’d said it pouty: Lord Fauntleroy, aging junkie.
Ava Gardner cruised by the pool. Pete waved; Ava flipped him the bird. They went back: he got her an abortion in exchange for a weekend with Hughes. Renaissance Man Pete: pimp, dope procurer, licensed PI goon.
Hughes and him went waaay back.
June ‘52. L.A. County Deputy Sheriff Pete Bondurant-night watch commander at the San Dimas Substation. That one shitty night: a nigger rape-o at large, the drunk tank packed with howling juiceheads.
This wino gave him grief. “I know you, tough guy. You kill innocent women and your own-”
He beat the man to death barefisted.
The Sheriff’s hushed it up. An eyeball witness squealed to the Feds. The L.A. agent-in-charge tagged Joe Wino “Joe Civil Rights Victim.”
Two agents leaned on him: Kemper Boyd and Ward J. Littell. Howard Hughes saw his picture in the paper and sensed strongarm potential. Hughes got the beef quashed and offered him a job: fixer, pimp, dope conduit.
Howard married Jean Peters and installed her in a mansion by herself. Add “watchdog” to his duties; add the world’s greatest rent-free doghouse: the mansion next door.
Howard Hughes on marriage: “I find it a delightful institution, Pete, but I also find cohabitation stressful. Explain that to Jean periodically, won’t you? And if she gets lonely, tell her that she’s in my thoughts, even though I’m very busy.”
Pete lit a cigarette. Clouds passed over-pool loungers shivered. The intercom crackled-Hughes was beckoning.
He walked into the bedroom. “Captain Kangaroo” was on TV, the volume down low.
Dim black amp; white lighting-and Big Howard in deep-focus shadows.
“It’s ‘Howard’ when we’re alone. You know that.”
“I’m feeling subservient today.”
“You mean you’re feeling your oats with your paramour, Miss Gail Hendee. Tell me, is she enjoying the surveillance house?’
“She likes it. She’s as hinky of shack jobs as you are, and she says twenty-four rooms for two people smooths things out.”
“I like independent women.”
“No you don’t.”
Hughes plumped up his pillows. “You’re correct. But I do like the idea of independent women, which I have always tried to exploit in my movies. And I’m sure Miss Hendee is both a wonderful extortion partner and mistress. Now, Pete, about the TWA divestment…”
Pete pulled a chair up. “The process servers won’t get to you. I’ve got every employee at this hotel bribed, and I’ve got an actor set up in a bungalow two rows over. He looks like you and dresses like you, and I’ve got call girls going in at all hours, to perpetuate the myth that you still fuck women. I check every man and woman who applies for work here, to make sure the Justice Department doesn’t slip a ringer in. All the shift bosses here play the stock market, and for every month you go unfuckingsubpoenaed I give them twenty shares of Hughes Tool Company stock apiece. As long as you stay in this bungalow, you won’t be served and you won’t have to appear in court.”
Hughes plucked at his robe-little palsied fidgets. “You’re a very cruel man.”
“No, I’m your very cruel man, which is why you let me talk back to you.”
“You’re ‘my man,’ but you still retain your somewhat tawdry private investigator sideline.”
“That’s because you crowd me. That’s because I’m not so good at cohabitation either.”
“Despite what I pay you?’
“No, because of it.”
“For instance, I’ve got a mansion in Holmby Hills, but you’ve got the deed. I’ve got a ‘58 Pontiac coupe, but you’ve got the pink slip. I’ve got a-”
“This is getting us nowhere.”
“Howard, you want something. Tell me what it is and I’ll do it.”
Hughes tapped his remote-control gizmo. “Captain Kangaroo” blipped off. “I’ve purchased Hush-Hush magazine. My reasons for acquiring a scurrilous scandal rag are twofold. One, I’ve been corresponding with J. Edgar Hoover, and I want to solidify my friendship with him. We both love the type of Hollywood gossip that Hush-Hush purveys, so owning the magazine would be both pleasurable and a smart political move. Second, there’s politics itself. To be blunt, I want to be able to smear politicians that I dislike, especially profligate playboys like Senator John Kennedy, who might be running for President against my good friend Dick Nixon in 1960. As you undoubtedly know, Kennedy’s father and I were business rivals back in the ‘20s, and frankly, I hate the entire family.”
Pete said, “And?’
“And I know that you’ve worked for Hush-Hush as a ‘story verifier,’ so I know you understand that aspect of the business. It’s a quasi-extortion aspect, so I know it’s something you’ll be good at.”
Pete popped his knuckles. “‘Story verification’ means ‘Don’t sue the magazine or I’ll hurt you.’ If you want me to help out that way, fine.”
“Good. That’s a start.”
“Wrap it up, Howard. I know the people there, so tell me who’s going and who’s staying.”
Hughes flinched-just a tad. “The receptionist was a Negro woman with dandruff, so I fired her. The stringer and so-called ‘dirt digger’ quit, and I want you to find me a new one. I’m keeping Sol Maltzman on. He’s been writing all the articles, under a pseudonym, for years, so I’m prone to retaining him, even though he’s a blacklisted Commie known to belong to no less than twenty-nine left-wing organizations, and-”
“And that’s all the staff you need. Sol does a good job, and if worse comes to worse, Gail can fill in for him-she’s written for Hush-Hush on and off for a couple of years. You’ve got your lawyer Dick Steisel for the legal stuff, and I can get you Fred Turentine for bug work. I’ll find you a good dirt digger. I’ll keep my nose down and ask around, but it might take a while.”
“I trust you. You’ll do your usual superb job.”
Pete worked his knuckles. The joints ached-a sure sign that rain was coming. Hughes said, “Is that necessary?”
“These hands of mine brought us together, Boss. I’m just letting you know they’re still here.”
o o o
The watchdog house living room was 84’ by 80’.
The foyer walls were gold-flecked marble.
Nine bedrooms. Walk-in freezers thirty feet deep. Hughes had the carpets cleaned monthly-a jigaboo walked across them once.
Surveillance cameras were mounted on the roof and the upstairs landings-aimed at Mrs. Hughes’ bedroom next door.
Pete found Gail in the kitchen. She had these great curves and long brown hair-her looks still got to him.
She said, “You usually hear people walk into houses, but our front door’s a half-mile away.”
“We’ve been here a year, and you’re still cracking jokes.”
“I live in the Taj Mahal. That takes some getting used to.”
Pete straddled a chair. “You’re nervous.”
Gail slid her chair away from him. “Well… as extortionists go, I’m the nervous type. What’s the man’s name today?”
“Walter P. Kinnard. He’s forty-seven years old, and he’s been cheating on his wife since their honeymoon. He’s got kids he dotes on, and the wife says he’ll fold if I squeeze him with pictures and threaten to show them to the kids. He’s a juicer, and he always gets a load on at lunchtime.”
Gail crossed herself-half shtick, half for real. “Where?”
“You meet him at Dale’s Secret Harbor. He’s got a fuck pad a few blocks away where he bangs his secretary, but you insist on the Ambassador. You’re in town for a convention, and you’ve got a snazzy room with a wet bar.”
Gail shivered. Early a.m. chills-a sure sign that she had the yips.
Pete slipped her a key. “I rented the room next door to yours, so you can lock up and make it look good. I picked the lock on the connecting door, so I don’t think this one will be noisy.”
Gail lit a cigarette. Steady hands-good. “Distract me. Tell me what Howard the Recluse wanted.”
“He bought Hush-Hush. He wants me to find him a stringer, so he can pull his pud over Hollywood gossip and share it with his pal J. Edgar Hoover. He wants to smear his political enemies, like your old boyfriend Jack Kennedy.”
Gail smiled toasty warm. “A few weekends didn’t make him my boyfriend.”
“That fucking smile made him something.”
“He flew me down to Acapulco once. That’s a Howard the Recluse kind of gesture, so it makes you jealous.”
“He flew you down on his honeymoon.”
“So? He got married for political reasons, and politics makes for strange bedlellows. And my God, you are suuuch a voyeur.”
Pete unholstered his piece and checked the clip-so fast that he didn’t know why. Gail said, “Don’t you think our lives are strange?”
o o o
They took separate cars downtown. Gail sat at the bar; Pete grabbed a booth close by and nursed a highball.
The restaurant was crowded-Dale’s did a solid lunch biz. Pete got choice seating-he broke up a fag squeeze on the owner once.
Lots of women circulating: mid-Wilshire office stuff mostly. Gail stuck out: beaucoup more je ne sais quoi. Pete wolfed cocktail nuts-he forgot to eat breakfast.
Kinnard was late. Pete scanned the room, X-ray-eye-style.
There’s Jack Whalen by the pay phones-L.A.’s #1 bookie collector. There’s some LAPD brass two booths down. They’re fucking whispering: “Bondurant”… “Right, that Cressmeyer woman.”
There’s Ruth Mildred Cressmeyer’s ghost at the bar: this sad old girl with the shakes.
Pete slid down Memory Lane.
Late ‘49. He had some good sidelines going: card-game guard and abortion procurer. The scrape doctor was his kid brother, Frank.
Pete joined the U.S. Marines to bag a green card. Frank stayed with the family in Quebec and went to medical schooL
Pete got hip early. Frank got hip late.
Don’t speak French, speak English. Lose your accent and go to America.
Frank hit LA. with a hard-on for money. He passed his medical boards and hung out his shingle: abortions and morphine for sale.
Frank loved showgirls and cards. Frank loved hoodlums. Frank loved Mickey Cohen’s Thursday-night poker game.
Frank made friends with a stickup guy named Huey Cressmeyer. Huey’s mom ran a Niggertown scrape clinic. Huey got his girlfriend pregnant and asked Mom and Frank for help. Huey got stupid and heisted the Thursday-night game-Pete was off guard duty with the flu.
Mickey gave Pete the contract.
Pete got a tip: Huey was holed up at a pad in El Segundo. The house belonged to a Jack Dragna trigger.
Mickey hated Jack Dragna. Mickey doubled the price and told him to kill everyone in the house.
December 14, 1949-overcast and chilly.
Pete torched the hideout with a Molotov cocktail. Four shapes ran out the back door swatting at flames. Pete shot them and left them to bum.
The papers ID’d them:
Hubert John Cressmeyer, 24.
Ruth Mildred Cressmeyer, 56.
Linda Jane Camrose, 20, four months pregnant.
Franзois Bondurant, 27, a physician and French-Canadian йmigrй.
The snuffs stayed officially unsolved. The story filtered out to insiders.
Somebody called his father in Quebec and ratted him. The old man called him and begged him to deny it.
He must have faltered or oozed guilt. The old man and old lady sucked down monoxide fumes the same day.
That old babe at the bar was fucking Ruth Mildred’s twin.
Time dragged. He sent the old girl an on-the-house refill. Walter P. Kinnard walked in and sat down next to Gail.
The poetry commenced.
Gail signaled the bartender. Attentive Walter caught the gesture and whistled. Joe Barman zoomed over with his martini shaker- regular boozer Walt packed some weight here.
Helpless Gail searched her purse for matches. Helpful Walt flicked his lighter and smiled. Sexy Walt was dripping scalp flakes all over the back of his jacket.
Gail smiled. Sexy Walt smiled. Well-dressed Walt wore white socks with a three-piece chalk-stripe suit
The lovebirds settled in for martinis and small talk. Pete eyeballed the pre-bed warmup. Gail guzzled her drink for courage-her jaggedy nerves showed through plain.
She touched Walt’s arm. Her guilty heart showed plain-except for the money, she hates it.
Pete walked over to the Ambassador and went up to his room. The setup was perfect: his room, Gail’s room, one connecting door for a slick covert entrance.
He loaded his camera and attached a flashbulb strip. He greased the connecting doorjamb. He framed angles for some face shots.
Ten minutes crawled by. Pete listened for next-door sounds. There, Gail’s signal-”Damn, where’s my key?” a beat too loud.
Pete pressed up to the wall. He heard Lonely Walt pitch some boo-hoo: my wife and kids don’t know a man has certain needs. Gail said, Why’d you have seven kids then? Walt said, It keeps my wife at home, where a woman belongs.
Their voices faded out bed-bound. Shoes went thunk. Gail kicked a high-heeled pump at the wall-her three-minutes-to-blastoff signal.
Pete laughed-thirty-dollar-a-night rooms with goddamn wafer-thin walls.
Zippers snagged. Bedsprings creaked. Seconds tick-tick-ticked. Walter P. Kinnard started groaning-Pete clocked him saddled in at 2:44.
He waited for 3:00 even. He eeeeased the door open-that doorjamb grease lubed out every little scriiich.
There: Gail and Walter P. Kinnard fucking.
In the missionary style, with their heads close together- courtroom adultery evidence. Walt was loving it. Gail was feigning ecstasy and picking at a hangnail.
Pete got closeup close and let fly.
One, two, three-flashbulb blips Tommy-gun fast. The whole goddamn room went glare bright
Kinnard shrieked and pulled out dishrag limp. Gail tumbled off the bed and ran for the bathroom.
Sexy buck-naked Walt 5’9”, 210, pudgy.
Pete dropped his camera and picked him up by the neck. Pete laid his pitch out nice and slow.
“Your wife wants a divorce. She wants eight hundred a month, the house, the ‘56 Buick and orthodontic treatments for your son Timmy. You give her everything she wants, or I’ll find you and kill you.”
Kinnard popped spit bubbles. Pete admired his color: half shock-blue, half cardiac-red.
Steam whooshed out the bathroom door-Gail’s standard postfuck shower always went down quick.
Pete dropped Walt on the floor. His arm fluttered from the lift two hundred pounds plus, not bad.
Kinnard grabbed his clothes and stumbled out the door. Pete saw him tripping down the hallway, trying to get his trousers on right
Gail walked out of a steam cloud. Her “I can’t take much more of this” was no big surprise.
o o o
Walter P. Kinnard settled non-litigiously. Pete’s shutout string jumped to Wives 23, Husbands 0. Mrs. Kinnard paid off: five grand up front, with 25% of her alimony promised in perpetuity.
Next: three days on Howard Hughes’ time clock.
The TWA suit was spooking Big Howard. Pete stepped up his diversions.
He paid hookers to spiel to the papers: Hughes was holed up in numerous fuck pads. He bombarded process servers with phone tips: Hughes was in Bangkok, Maracaibo, Seoul. He set up a second Hughes double at the Biltmore: an old stag-movie vet, beaucoup hung. Pops was priapic for real-he sent Barbara Payton over to service him. Booze-addled Babs thought the old geek really was Hughes. She dished far and wide: Little Howard grew six inches.
J. Edgar Hoover could stall the suit easy. Hughes refused to ask him for help.
“Not yet, Pete. I need to cement my friendship with Mr. Hoover first I see my ownership of Hush-Hush as the key, but I need you to find me a new scandal man first. You know how much Mr. Hoover loves to accrue titillating information…”
Pete put the word out on the grapevine:
New Hush-Hush dirt digger needed. Interested bottomfeeders-call Pete B.
Pete stuck by the watchdog house phone. Geeks called. Pete said, Give me a hot dirt tidbit to prove your credibility.
The geeks complied. Dig the sampling:
Pat Nixon just hatched Nat “King” Cole’s baby. Lawrence Welk ran male prosties. A hot duo: Patti Page and Francis the Talking Mule.
Eisenhower had certified spook blood. Rin Tin Tin got Lassie pregnant. Jesus Christ ran a coon whorehouse in Watts.
It got worse. Pete logged in nineteen applicants-all fucking strange-o’s.
The phone rang-Strange-O #20 loomed. Pete heard crackle on the line-the call was probably long distance.
“Pete? It’s Jimmy.”
“Jimmy, how are you?”
“Right now I’m cold. It’s cold in Chicago. I’m calling from a pal’s house, and the heater’s on the blink. Are you sure your phone’s not tapped?”
“I’m sure. Freddy Turentine runs tap checks on all of Mr. Hughes’ phones once a month.”
“I can talk then?”
“You can talk.”
Hoffa cut loose. Pete held the phone at arm’s length and heard him juuuust fine.
“The McClellan Committee’s on me like flies on shit. That little weasel cocksucker Bobby Kennedy’s got half the country convinced the Teamsters are worse than the goddamn Commies, and he’s fucking hounding me and my people with subpoenas, and he’s got investigators crawling all over my union like-”
“-fleas on a dog. First he chases Dave Beck out, and now he wants me. Bobby Kennedy is a fucking avalanche of dogshit. I’m building this resort in Florida called Sun Valley, and Bobby’s trying to trace the three million that bankrolled it. He figures I took it from the Central States Pension Fund-”
“-and he thinks he can use me to get his pussy-hound brother elected President He thinks James Riddle Hoffa’s a fucking political steppingstone. He thinks I’m gonna bend over and take it in the keester like some goddamn homosexual queer. He thinks-”
“-I’m some pansy like him and his brother. He thinks I’m gonna roll over like Dave Beck. As if all this ain’t enough, I own this cabstand in Miami. I’ve got these hothead Cuban refugees working there, and all they do is debate fucking Castro versus fucking Batista like like like…”
Hoffa gasped out hoarse. Pete said, “What do you want?”
Jimmy caught some breath. “I’ve got a job for you in Miami.”
Pete said, “I’ll take it.”
o o o
He booked a midnight flight. He used a fake passenger name and charged a first-class seat to Hughes Aircraft. The plane landed at 8:00 am., on time.
Miami was balmy working on hot.
Pete cabbed over to a Teamster-owned U-Drive and picked up a new Caddy Eldo. Jimmy pulled strings: no deposit or ID was required.
A note was taped under the dashboard.
“Go by cabstand: Flagler at N.W. 46th. Talk to Fulo Machado.” Directions followed: causeways to surface streets marked on a little map.
Pete drove over. The scenery evaporated quick.
Big houses got smaller and smaller. White squares went to white trash, jigs and spics. Flagler was wall-to-wall low-rent storefronts.
The cabstand was tiger-striped stucco. The cabs in the lot had tiger-stripe paint jobs. Dig those tiger-shirted spics on the curb- snarfing doughnuts and T-Bird wine.
A sign above the door read: Tiger Kab. Se Habla Espanol.
Pete parked directly in front. Tiger men scoped him out and jabbered. He stretched to six-five-plus and let his shirttail hike. The spics saw his piece and jabbered on overdrive.
He walked in to the dispatch hut. Nice wallpaper: tiger photos taped floor to ceiling. National Geographic stock-Pete almost howled.
The dispatcher waved him over. Dig his face: scarred by tic-tac-toe knife cuts.
Pete pulled a chair up. Butt-Ugly said, “I’m Fulo Machado. Batista’s secret police did this to me, so take your free introductory look now and forget about it, all right?”
“You speak English pretty well.”
“I used to work at the Nacional Hotel in Havana. An American croupier guy taught me. It turned out he was a maricуn trying to corrupt me.”
“What did you do to him?”
“The maricуn had a shack on a pork farm outside of Havana, where he brought little Cuban boys to corrupt them. I found him there with another maricуn and murdered them with my machete. I stole all the pigs’ food from their troughs and left the door of the shack open. You see, I had read in the National Geographic that starving pigs found decomposing human flesh irresistible.”
Pete said, “Fulo, I like you.”
“Please reserve judgment. I can be volatile where the enemies of Jesus Christ and Fidel Castro are concerned.”
Pete stified a yuk. “Did one of Jimmy’s guys leave an envelope for me?’
Fulo forked it over. Pete ripped it open, itchy to roll.
Nice-a simple note and a photo.
“Anton Gretzler, 114 Hibiscus, Lake Weir, Fla. (near Sun Valley). 014-8812.” The pic showed a tall guy almost too fat to live.
Pete said, “Jimmy must trust you.”
“He does. He sponsored my green card, so he knows that I will remain loyal.”
“What’s this Sun Valley place?”
“It is what I think is called a ‘sub-division.’ Jimmy is selling lots to Teamster members.”
Pete said, “So who do you think’s got more juice these days- Jesus or Castro?”
“I would say it is currently a toss-up.”
o o o
Pete checked in at the Eden Roc and buzzed Anton Gretzler from a pay phone. The fat man agreed to a meet: 3:00, outside Sun Valley.
Pete took a snooze and drove out early. Sun Valley was the shits: three dirt roads gouged from swampland forty yards off the Interstate.
It was “sub-divided”-into matchbook-size lots piled with junk siding. Marshland formed the perimeter-Pete saw gators out sunning.
It was hot and humid. A wicked sun cooked greenery dry brown.
Pete leaned against the car and stretched some kinks out. A truck crawled down the highway belching steam; the man in the passenger seat waved for help. Pete turned his back and let the geeks pass by.
A breeze kicked dust clouds up. The access road hazed over. A big sedan turned off the Interstate and barreled in blind.
Pete stood aside. The car brodied to a stop. Fat Anton Gretzler got out.
Pete walked over to him. Gretzler said, “Mr. Peterson?”
“That’s me. Mr. Gretzler?”
Fats stuck his hand out. Pete ignored it
“Is something wrong? You said you wanted to see a lot.”
Pete steered Fat Boy down to a marsh glade. Gretzler caught on quick: Don’t resist. Gator eyes poked out of the water.
Pete said, “Look at my car. Do I look like some union schmuck in the market for a do-it-yourself house?”
“Then don’t you think you’re doing Jimmy raw by showing me these piece-of-shit pads?”
“Jimmy told me he’s got a nice block of houses around here just about ready to go. You’re supposed to wait and show them to the Teamsters.”
“Well… I thought I-”
“Jimmy says you’re an impetuous guy. He says he shouldn’t have made you a partner in this thing. He says you’ve told people he borrowed money from the Teamsters’ Pension Fund and skimmed some off the top. He’s says you’ve been talking up the Fund like you’re a made guy.”
Gretzler squirmed. Pete grabbed his wrist and snapped it- bones sheared and poked out through his skin. Gretzler tried to scream and choked up mute.
“Has the McClellan Committee subpoenaed you?”
Gretzler made “yes” nods, frantic.
“Have you talked to Robert Kennedy or his investigators?”
Gretzler made “no” nods, shit-your-pants scared.
Pete checked the highway. No cars in view, no witnesses-
Gretzler said, “PLEASE.”
Pete blew his brains out halfway through a rosary.
K e m p e r B o y d
The car: a Jaguar XK-140, British racing green/tan leather. The garage: subterranean and dead quiet The job: steal the Jag for the FBI and entrap the fool who paid you to do it
The man pried the driver’s-side door open and hot-wired the ignition. The upholstery smelled rich: full leather boosted the “resale” price into the stratosphere.
He eased the car up to the street and waited for traffic to pass. Cold air fogged the windshield.
His buyer was standing at the corner. He was a Walter Mitty crime-voyeur type who had to get close.
The man pulled out. A squad car cut him off. His buyer saw what was happening-and ran.
Philly cops packing shotguns swooped down. They shouted standard auto-theft commands: “Get out of the car with your hands up!”/”Out-now!”/”Down on the ground!”
He obeyed them. The cops threw on full armor: cuffs, manacles and drag chains.
They frisked him and jerked him to his feet. His head hit a prowl car cherry light-
o o o
The cell looked familiar. He swung his legs off the bunk and got his identity straight.
I’m Special Agent Kemper C. Boyd, FBI, interstate car theft infiltrator.
I’m not Bob Aiken, freelance car thief.
I’m forty-two years old. I’m a Yale Law School grad. I’m a seventeen-year Bureau veteran, divorced, with a daughter in college-and a long-time FBI-sanctioned car booster.
He placed his cell: tier B at the Philly Fed Building.
His head throbbed. His wrists and ankles ached. He tamped down his identity a last notch.
I’ve rigged auto-job evidence and skimmed money off of it for years. IS THIS AN INTERNAL BUREAU ROUST?
He saw empty cells down both sides of the catwalk. He spotted some papers on his sink: newspaper mock-ups topped by banner headlines:
“Car Thief Suffers Heart Attack in Federal Custody”/”Car Thief Expires in Federal Building Cell.”
The text was typed out below.
This afternoon, Philadelphia Police enacted a daring arrest in the shadow of picturesque Rittenhouse Square.
Acting on information supplied by an unnamed informant, Sergeant Gerald P. Griffen and four other officers captured Robert Henry Aiken, 42, in the act of stealing an expensive Jaguar automobile. Aiken meekly let the officers restrain him and-
Someone coughed and said, “Sir?’
Kemper looked up. A clerk type unlocked the cell and held the door open for him.
“You can go out the back way, sir. There’s a car waiting for you.”
Kemper brushed off his clothes and combed his hair. He walked out the freight exit and saw a government limo blocking the alley.
Kemper got in the back. J. Edgar Hoover said, “Hello, Mr. Boyd.”
“Good afternoon, Sir.”
A partition slid up and closed the backseat off. The driver pulled out.
Hoover coughed. “Your infiltration assignment was terminated rather precipitously. The Philadelphia Police were somewhat rough, but they have a reputation for that, and anything less would have lacked verisimilitude.”
“I’ve learned to stay in character in situations like that. I’m sure the arrest was believable.”
“Did you affect an East Coast accent for your role?”
“No, a midwestern drawl. I learned the accent and speech patterns when I worked the St Louis office, and I thought they’d complement my physical appearance more effectively.”
“You’re correct, of course. And personally, I would not want to second-guess you on anything pertaining to criminal role-playing. That sports jacket you’re wearing, for instance. I would not appreciate it as standard Bureau attire, but it’s quite appropriate for a Philadelphia car thief.”
Get to it, you officious little-
“In fact, you’ve always dressed distinctly. Perhaps ‘expensively’ is more apt. To be blunt, there have been times when I wondered how your salary could sustain your wardrobe.”
“Sir, you should see my apartment What my wardrobe possesses, it lacks.”
Hoover chuckled. “Be that as it may, I doubt if I’ve seen you in the same suit twice. I’m sure the women you’re so fond of appreciate your sartorial flair.”
“Sir, I hope so.”
“You endure my amenities with considerable flair, Mr. Boyd. Most men squirm. You express both your inimitable personal panache and a concurrent respect for me that is quite alluring. Do you know what this means?”
“No, Sir. I don’t.”
“It means that I like you and am prone to forgive indiscretions that I would crucify other agents for. You’re a dangerous and ruthless man, but you possess a certain beguiling charm. This balance of attributes outweighs your profligate tendencies and allows me to be fond of you.”
DON’T SAY “WHAT INDISCRETIONS?”-HE’LL TELL YOU AND MAIM YOU.
“Sir, I greatly appreciate your respect, and I reciprocate it fully.”
“You didn’t include ‘fondness’ in your reciprocity, but I won’t press the point. Now, business. I have an opportunity for you to earn two regular paychecks, which should delight you no end.”
Hoover leaned back coax-me style. Kemper said, “Sir?”
The limo accelerated. Hoover flexed his hands and straightened his necktie. “The Kennedy brothers’ recent actions have distressed me. Bobby seems to be using the McClellan Committee’s labor racketeering mandate as a means to upstage the Bureau and advance his brother’s presidential aspirations. This displeases me. I’ve been running the Bureau since before Bobby was born. Jack Kennedy is a desiccated liberal playboy with the moral convictions of a crotch-sniffing hound dog. He’s playing crimefighter on the McClellan Committee, and the very existence of the committee is an implicit slap in the Bureau’s face. Old Joe Kennedy is determined to buy his son the White House, and I want to possess information to help mitigate the boy’s more degenerately egalitarian policies, should he succeed.”
Kemper caught his cue. “Sir?’
“I want you to infiltrate the Kennedy organization. The McClellan Committee’s labor-racketeering mandate ends next spring, but Bobby Kennedy is still hiring lawyer-investigators. As of now you are retired from the FBI, although you will continue to draw full pay until July 1961, the date you reach twenty years of Bureau service. You are to prepare a convincing FBI retirement story and secure an attorney’s job with the McClellan Committee. I know that both you and Jack Kennedy have been intimate with a Senate aide named Sally Lefferts. Miss Lefferts is a talkative woman, so I’m sure young Jack has heard about you. Young Jack is on the McClellan Committee, and young Jack loves sexual gossip and dangerous friends. Mr. Boyd, I am sure that you will fit in with the Kennedys. I’m sure that this will be both a salutary opportunity for you to practice your skills of dissembling and duplicity, and the chance to exercise your more promiscuous tastes.”
Kemper felt weightless. The limo cruised on thin air.
Hoover said, “Your reaction delights me. Rest now. We’ll arrive in Washington in an hour, and I’ll drop you at your apartment.”
o o o
Hoover supplied up-to-date study notes-in a leather binder stamped “CONFIDENTIAL.” Kemper mixed a pitcher of extradry martinis and pulled up his favorite chair to read through them.
The notes boiled down to one thing: Bobby Kennedy vs. Jimmy Hoffa.
Senator John McClellan chaired the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Improper Activities in the Labor and Management Field, established in January 1957. Its subsidiary members: Senators Ives, Kennedy, McNamara, McCarthy, Ervin, Mundt, Goldwater. Its chief counsel and investigative boss: Robert F Kennedy.
Current personnel: thirty-five investigators, forty-five accountants, twenty-five stenographers and clerks. Its current housing: the Senate Office Building, suite 101.
The Committee’s stated goals:
To expose corrupt labor practices; to expose labor unions collusively linked to organized crime. The Committee’s methods: witness subpoenas, document subpoenas, and the charting of union funds diverted and misused in organized crime activities.
The Committee’s de facto target: the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the most powerful transportation union on earth, arguably the most corrupt and powerful labor union ever.
Its president: James Riddle Hoffa, age 45.
Hoffa: Mob bought-and-paid-for. The suborner of: extortion, wholesale bribery, beatings, bombings, management side deals and epic abuse of union funds.
Hoffa’s suspected holdings, in violation of fourteen antitrust statutes:
Trucking firms, used car lots, a dog track, a car-rental chain, a Miami cabstand staffed by Cuban refugees with extensive criminal records.
Hoffa’s close friends:
Mr. Sam Giancana, the Mafia boss of Chicago; Mr. Santo Trafficante Jr., the Mafia boss of Tampa, Florida; Mr. Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans.
Who lends his “friends” millions of dollars, put to use illegally.
Who owns percentages of Mob-run casinos in Havana, Cuba.
Who illegally funnels cash to Cuban strongman Fulgencio Batista and rebel firebrand Fidel Castro.
Who rapes the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund, a cashrich watering hole rumored to be administered by Sam Giancana’s Chicago Mob-a loan-shark scheme wherein gangsters and crooked entrepreneurs borrow large sums at usurious interest rates, with nonpayment penalties up to and including torture and death.
Kemper caught the gist: Hoover’s jealous. He always said the Mob didn’t exist-because he knew he couldn’t prosecute it successfully. Now Bobby Kennedy begs to differ…
A chronology followed.
Early ‘57: the Committee targets Teamster president Dave Beck. Beck testifies five times; Bobby Kennedy’s relentless goading breaks the man. A Seattle grand jury indicts him for larceny and income tax evasion.
Spring ‘57: Jimmy Hoffa assumes complete control of the Teamsters.
August ‘57: Hoffa vows to rid his union of gangster intluence-a large lie.
September ‘57: Hoffa goes to trial in Detroit The charge: tapping the phones of Teamster subordinates. A hung jury-Hoffa escapes sentencing.
October ‘57: Hoffa is elected International Teamster president. A persistent rumor: 70% of his delegates were illegally selected.
July ‘58: the Committee begins to investigate direct links between the Teamsters and organized crime. Closely scrutinized: the November ‘57 Apalachin Conclave.
Fifty-nine high-ranking mobsters meet at the upstate New York home of a “civilian” friend. A state trooper named Edgar Croswell runs their license plates. A raid ensues-and Mr. Hoover’s longstanding “there is no Mafia” stance becomes untenable.
July ‘58: Bobby Kennedy proves that Hoffa resolves strikes through management bribes-this practice dating back to ‘49.
August ‘58: Hoffa appears before the Committee. Bobby Kennedy goes at him-and traps him in numerous lies.
The notes concluded.
The Committee was currently probing Hoffa’s Sun Valley resort outside Lake Weir, Florida. Bobby Kennedy subpoenaed the Central States Pension Fund books and saw that three million dollars went into the project-much more than reasonable building costs. Kennedy’s theory: Hoffa skimmed at least a million dollars off the top and was selling his union brothers defective prefab material and alligator-infested swampland.
Ergo: felony land fraud.
A closing addendum:
“Hoffa has a Sun Valley front man: Anton William Gretzler, 46, a Florida resident with three previous bunco convictions. Gretzler was subpoenaed 10/29/58, but now appears to be missing.”
Kemper checked the Hoffa “Known Associates” list. One name sizzled:
Pete Bondurant, W.M., 6’5”, 230, DOB 7/16/20, Montreal, Canada.
No criminal convictions. Licensed private investigator/former Los Angeles County deputy sheriff.
Big Pete: shakedown man and Howard Hughes’ pet goon. He and Ward Littell arrested him once-he beat a Sheriff’s inmate to death. Littell’s comment: “Perhaps the most fearsome and competent rogue cop of our era.”
Kemper poured a fresh drink and let his mind drift. The impersonation took shape: heroic aristocrats form a common bond.
He liked women, and cheated on his wife throughout their marriage. Jack Kennedy liked women-and held his marriage vows expedient and whimsical. Bobby liked his wife and kept her pregnant-insider talk tagged him faithful.
Yale for him; Harvard for the Kennedys. Filthy-rich Irish Catholics; filthy-rich Tennessee Anglicans gone bankrupt. Their family was large and photogenic; his family was broke and dead. Someday he might tell Jack and Bobby how his father shot himself and took a month to die.
Southerners and Boston Irish: both afflicted with incongruous accents. He’d resurrect the drawl it took so long to lose.
Kemper prowled his clothes closet. Impersonation details clicked in.
The charcoal worsted for the interview. A holstered.38 to impress tough guy Bobby. No Yale cuff links-Bobby might possess a proletarian streak.
His closet was twelve feet deep. The back wall was offset by framed photographs.
His ex-wife, Katherine-the best-looking woman who ever breathed. They debuted at the Nashville Cotillion-a society scribe called them “southern grace personified.” He married her for sex and her father’s money. She divorced him when the Boyd fortune evaporated and Hoover addressed his law school class and personally invited him to join the FBI.
Katherine, in November 1940:
“You watch out for that prissy little fussbudget, do you hear me, Kemper? I think he has carnal designs on you.”
She didn’t know that Mr. Hoover only fucked power.
In matching frames: his daughter, Claire, Susan Littell and Helen Agee-three FBI daughters hell-bent on law careers.
The girls were best friends split up by studies at Tulane and Notre Dame. Helen was disfigured-he kept the pictures in his closet to quash pitying comments.
Tom Agee was sitting in his car-working a routine stakeout for some bank heisters outside a whorehouse. His wife had just left him-Tom couldn’t find a sitter for nine-year-old Helen. She was sleeping in the backseat when the heisters came up shooting.
Tom was killed. Helen was muzzle-burned and left for dead. Help arrived-six hours later. Flash particles had scorched Helen’s cheeks and scarred her for life.
Kemper laid out his interview clothes. He got some lies straight and called Sally Lefferts.
The phone rang twice. “Uh, hello?”-Sally’s little boy picked up.
“Son, get your mother. Tell her it’s a friend from the office.”
Sally came on the line. “Who’s this from the U.S. Senate clerical pool bothering this poor overworked aide?”
“It’s me. Kemper.”
“Kemper, what are you doing calling me with my husband in the backyard right now as we speak!”
“Ssssh. I’m calling you for a job referral.”
“What are you saying? Are you saying Mr. Hoover got wise to your evil ways with women and showed you the gate?”
“I retired, Sally. I utilized a dangerous-duty dispensation clause and retired three years early.”
“Well, my heavens, Kemper Cathcart Boyd!”
“Are you still seeing Jack Kennedy, Sally?”
“Occasionally, dear heart, since you gave me the gate. Is this about trading little black books and evil tales out of school, or-?”
“I’m thinking of applying for a job with the McClellan Committee.”
Sally whooped. “Well, I think you should! I think I should put a note on Robert Kennedy’s desk recommending you, and you should send me a dozen long-stemmed Southern Beauty roses for the effort!”
“You’re the southern beauty, Sally.”
“I was too much woman for De Ridder, Louisiana, and that is a fact!”
Kemper hung up with kisses. Sally would spread the word: ex-FBI car thief now seeking work.
He’d tell Bobby how he crashed the Corvette theft ring. He wouldn’t mention the Vettes he stripped for parts.
o o o
He moved the next day. He walked right in to the Senate Office Building and suite 101.
The receptionist heard him out and tapped her intercom. “Mr. Kennedy, there’s a man here who wants to apply for an investigator’s position. He has FBI retirement credentials.”
The office spread out unpartitioned behind her-all cabinet rows, cubicles and conference rooms. Men worked elbow-to-elbow tight-the place hummed.
The woman smiled. “Mr. Kennedy will see you. Take this first little aisle straight back.”
Kemper walked into the hum. The office had a scavenged look: mismatched desks and filing bins, and corkboards top-heavy with paper.
Robert Kennedy stepped out of his cubicle. It was the standard size, the standard desk and two chairs.
He offered the standard too-hard handshake-totally predictable.
Kemper sat down. Kennedy pointed to his holster bulge. “I didn’t know that retired FBI men were allowed to carry guns.”
“I’ve incurred enemies through the years. My retirement won’t stop them from hating me.”
“Senate investigators don’t wear sidearms.”
“If you hire me, I’ll put mine in a drawer.”
Kennedy smiled and leaned against his desk. “You’re from the South?”
“Sally Lefferts said you were with the FBI for what, fifteen years?”
“Why did you retire early?”
“I worked auto-theft infiltration assignments for the past nine years, and it had gotten to the point where I was too well known to car thieves to go undercover convincingly. The Bureau bylaws contain an early-retirement clause for agents who have engaged in prolonged stints of hazardous duty, and I utilized it.”
“‘Utilized’? Did those assignments debilitate you in some way?”
“I applied for a position with the Top Hoodlum Program first. Mr. Hoover rejected my application personally, although he knew full well that I had desired organized crime work for some time. No, I wasn’t debilitated. I was frustrated.”
Kennedy brushed hair from his forehead. “So you quit.”
“Is that an accusation?”
“No, it’s an observation. And frankly, I’m surprised. The FBI is a tight-knit organization that inspires great loyalty, and agents do not tend to retire out of pique.”
Kemper raised his voice-just barely. “A great many agents realize that organized crime, not domestic Communism, poses the greatest threat to America. The Apalachin revelations forced Mr. Hoover to form the Top Hoodlum Program, which of course he did with some reluctance. The program is accruing anti-Mob intelligence, but not seeking hard evidence to build toward Federal prosecution, but at least that’s something, and I wanted to be part of it.”
Kennedy smiled. “I understand your frustration, and I agree with your critique of Mr. Hoover’s priorities. But I’m still surpnsed that you quit.”
Kemper smiled. “Before I ‘quit,’ I snuck a look at Mr. Hoover’s private file on the McClellan Committee. I’m up-to-date on the Committee’s work, up to and including Sun Valley and your missing witness Anton Gretzler. I ‘quit’ because Mr. Hoover has the Bureau neurotically focused on harmless leftists, while the McClellan Committee is going after the real bad guys. I ‘quit’ because given my choice of monomaniacs, I’d rather work for you.”
Kennedy grinned. “Our mandate ends in five months. You’ll be out of work.”
“I have an FBI pension, and you’ll have forwarded so much evidence to municipal grand juries that they’ll be begging your investigators to work for them ad hoc.”
Kennedy tapped a stack of papers. ‘We work hard here. We plod. We subpoena and trace money and litigate. We don’t risk our lives stealing sports cars or dawdle over lunch or take women to the Willard Hotel for quickies. Our idea of a good time is to talk about how much we hate Jimmy Hoffa and the Mob.”
Kemper stood up. “I hate Hoffa and the Mob like Mr. Hoover hates you and your brother.”
Bobby laughed. “I’ll let you know within a few days.”
o o o
Kemper strolled by Sally Lefferts’ office. It was 2:30-Sally might be up for a quickie at the Willard.
Her door was open. Sally was at her desk fretting tissues-with a man straddling a chair up close to her.
She said, “Oh, hello, Kemper.”
Her color was up: rosy verging on flushed. She had that too-bright I’ve-lost-at-love-again glow on.
“Are you busy? I can come back.”
The man swiveled his chair around. Kemper said, “Hello, Senator.”
John Kennedy smiled. Sally dabbed at her eyes. “Jack, this is my friend Kemper Boyd.”
They shook hands. Kennedy did a little half-bow.
“Mr. Boyd, a pleasure.”
“My pleasure entirely, sir.”
Sally forced a smile. Her rouge was streaked-she’d been crying.
“Kemper, how did your interview go?’
“It went well, I think. Sally, I have to go. I just wanted to thank you for the referral.”
Little nods went around. Nobody’s eyes met. Kennedy handed Sally a fresh tissue.
Kemper walked downstairs and outside. A storm had fired up-he ducked under a statue ledge and let the rain graze him.
The Kennedy coincidence felt strange. He walked straight from an interview with Bobby into a chance meeting with Jack. It felt like he was gently pushed in that direction.
Kemper thought it through.
Mr. Hoover mentioned Sally-as his most specific link to Jack Kennedy. Mr. Hoover knew that he and Jack shared a fondness for women. Mr. Hoover sensed that he’d visit Sally after his interview with Bobby.
Mr. Hoover sensed that he’d call Sally for an interview referral immediately. Mr. Hoover knew that Bobby needed investigators and interviewed walk-in prospects at whim.
Kemper took the logical leap-
Mr. Hoover has Capitol Hill hot-wired. He knew that you broke up with Sally at her office-to forestall a big public scene. He picked up a tip that Jack Kennedy was planning the same thing- and took a stab at maneuvering you into a position to witness it.
It felt logically sound. It felt quintessentially Hoover.
Mr. Hoover doesn’t entirely trust you to forge a bond with Bobby. He took a shot at placing you in a symbiotic context with Jack.
The rain felt good. Lightning crackled down and backlit the Capitol dome. It felt like he could stand here and let the whole world come to him.
Kemper heard foot scrapes behind him. He knew who it was instantly.
He turned around. John Kennedy was cinching up his overcoat.
“Call me Jack.”
“All right, Jack.”
Kennedy shivered. “Why the hell are we standing here?”
“We can run for the Mayflower bar when this lets up a bit.”
“We can, and I think we should. You know, Sally’s told me about you. She told me I should work on losing my accent the way you lost yours, so I was surprised to hear you speak.”
Kemper dropped his drawl. “Southerners make the best cops. You lay on the cornpone and people tend to underestimate you and let their secrets slip. I thought your brother might know that, so I acted accordingly. You’re on the McClellan Committee, so I figured I should go for uniformity.”
Kennedy laughed. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
“Thanks. And don’t worry about Sally. She likes men the way we like women, and she gets over the attendant heartaches pretty fast.”
“I knew you figured it out. Sally told me you cut her off in a similar fashion.”
Kemper smiled. “You can always go back occasionally. Sally appreciates an occasional afternoon at a good hotel.”
“I’ll remember that. A man with my aspirations has to be conscious of his entanglements.”
Kemper stepped closer to “Jack.” He could almost see Mr. Hoover grinning.
“I know a fair number of women who know how to keep things unentangled.”
Kennedy smiled and steered him into the rain. “Let’s go get a drink and talk about it. I’ve got an hour to kill before I meet my wife.”
W a r d J. L I t t e l l
Black bag work-a classic FBI Commie crib prowl.
Littell snapped the lock with a ruler. His hands dripped sweat- apartment-house break-ins always played risky.
Neighbors heard B amp;E noise. Hallway sounds muffled incoming footsteps.
He closed the door behind him. The living room took shape: ratty furniture, bookshelves, labor protest posters. It was a typical CPUSA member’s dwelling-he’d find documents in the dinette cupboard.
He did. Ditto the standard wall photos: Sad old “Free the Rosenbergs” shots.
He’d surveilled Morton Katzenbach for months. He’d heard scads of leftist invective. He knew one thing: Morty posed no threat to America.
A Commie cell met at Morty’s doughnut stand. Their big-time “treason”: feeding bear claws to striking auto workers.
Littell got out his Minox and snapped “documents.” He blew three rolls of film on donation tallies-all short of fifty dollars a month.
It was boring, shitty work. His old refrain kicked in automatically.
You’re forty-five years old. You’re an expert bug/wire man. You’re an ex-Jesuit seminarian with a law degree, two years and two months shy of retirement. You’ve got an alimony-fat ex-wife and a daughter at Notre Dame, and if you pass the Illinois Bar exam and quit the FBI, your gross earnings over the next X-number of years will more than compensate for your forfeited pension.
He shot two lists of “political expenses.” Morty annotated his doughnut handouts: “Plain,” “Chocolate,” “Glazed.”
He heard key-in-the-lock noise. He saw the door open ten feet in front of him.
Faye Katzenbach lugged groceries in. She saw him and shook her head like he was the saddest thing on earth.
“So you people are common thieves now?”
Littell knocked over a lamp running past her.
o o o
The squadroom was noontime quiet-just a few agents standing around clipping teletypes. Littell found a note on his desk.
K. Boyd called. In town en route to Florida. Pump Room, 7:00?
Chick Leahy walked up, waving file carbons. “I’ll need the complete Katzenbach folder, with photo attachments, by December 11th. Mr. Tolson’s coming in for an inspection tour, and he wants a CPUSA presentation.”
“You’ll have it.”
“Good. Complete with documents?’
“Some. Mrs. Katzenbach caught me before I finished.”
“Jesus. Did she-?”
“She did not call the Chicago PD, because she knew who I was and what I was doing. Mr. Leahy, half the Commies on earth know the term ‘black bag job.’”
Leahy sighed. “Say it, Ward. I’m going to turn you down, but you’ll feel better if you say it.”
“All right I want a Mob assignment I want a transfer to the Top Hoodlum Program.”
Leahy said, “No. Our THP roster is full. And as special agentin-charge my assessment of you is that you’re best suited for political surveillance, which I consider important work. Mr. Hoover considers domestic Communists more dangerous than the Mafia, and I have to say that I agree with him.”
They stared at each other. Littell broke it off-Leahy would stand there all day if he didn’t
Leahy walked back to his office. Littell shut his cubicle door and got out his bar texts. Civic statutes went unmemorized- Kemper Boyd memories cut them adrift.
Late ‘53: they corner a kidnapper in L.A. The man pulls a gun; he shakes so hard he drops his. Some LAPD men laugh at him. Kemper doctors the report to make him the hero.
They protest the disposition of Tom Agee’s pension-Mr. Hoover wants to award it to Tom’s floozy wife. Kemper talks him into a surviving-daughter disbursement; Helen now has a handsome sinecure.
They arrest Big Pete Bondurant. He makes a gaffe: ribbing Pete in Quebecois French. Bondurant snaps his handcuff chain and goes for his throat.
He runs. Big Pete laughs. Kemper bribes Bondurant into silence on the matter-catered cell food does the trick.
Kemper never judged his fearful side. Kemper said, “We both joined the Bureau to avoid the war, so who’s to judge?” Kemper taught him how to burglarize-a good fear tamper-downer.
Kemper said, “You’re my priest-cop confessor. I’ll reciprocate and hear your confessions, but since my secrets are worse than yours, I’ll always get the better end of the deal.”
Littell closed his textbook. Civil statutes were dead boring.
o o o
The Pump Room was packed. A gale blew off the lake-people seemed to whoosh inside.
Littell secured a back booth. The maоtre d’ took his drink order: two martinis, straight up. The restaurant was beautiful: colored waiters and a pre-symphony crowd had the place sparkling.
The drinks arrived. Littell arranged them for a quick toast. Boyd walked in, via the hotel lobby.
Littell laughed. “Don’t tell me you’re staying here.”
“My plane doesn’t leave until two a.m., and I needed a place to stretch my legs. Hello, Ward.”
“Hello, Kemper. A valedictory?”
Boyd raised his glass. “To my daughter Claire, your daughter Susan and Helen Agee. May they do well in school and become better attorneys than their fathers.”
They clicked goblets. “Neither of whom ever practiced law.”
“You clerked, though. And I heard you wrote deportation writs that saw litigation.”
“We’re not doing so badly. At least you’re not. So who’s putting you up here?’
“My new temporary employer booked me a room out by Midway, but I decided to splurge and make up the difference out of my pocket And the difference between the Skyliner Motel and the Ambassador-East is pretty steep.”
Littell smiled. “What new temporary employer? Are you working Cointelpro?”
“No, it’s something a good deal more interesting. I’ll tell you a few drinks down the line, when you’re more likely to get blasphemous and say, ‘Jesus Fucking Christ.’”
“I’ll say it now. You’ve just effectively killed small talk, so I will say it fucking now.”
Boyd sipped his martini. “Not yet. You just hit the jackpot on the wayward-daughter front, though. That should cheer you up.”
“Let me guess. Claire’s transferring from Tulane to Notre Dame.”
“No. Helen graduated Tulane a semester early. She’s been accepted at the University of Chicago law school, and she’ll be moving here next month.”
“I knew you’d be pleased.”
“Helen’s a courageous girl. She’ll make a damn fine lawyer.”
“She will. And she’ll make some man a damn fine consort, if we haven’t ruined her for young men her own age.”
“It would take a-”
“Special young man to get by her affliction?”
Boyd winked. “Well, she’s twenty-one. Think of how the two of you would upset Margaret.”
Littell killed his drink. “And upset my own daughter. Susan, by the way, says Margaret is spending weekends with a man in Charlevoix. But she’ll never marry him as long as she has my paycheck attached.”
“You’re her devil. You’re the seminarian boy who got her pregnant. And in the religious terms you’re so fond of, your marriage was purgatory.”
“No, my job is. I black-bagged a Commie’s apartment today and photographed an entire ledger page devoted to doughnuts. I honestly don’t know how much longer I can do this kind of thing.”
Fresh drinks arrived. The waiter bowed-Kemper inspired subservience. Littell said, “I figured something out in the process, right between the chocolate and the glazed.”
“That Mr. Hoover hates left-wingers because their philosophy is based on human frailty, while his own is based on an excruciating rectitude that denies such things.”
Boyd held his glass up. “You never disappoint me.”
Waiters swooped past. Candlelight bounced off gold flatware. Crкpe suzettes ignited-an old woman squealed.
“Mr. Hoover had me infiltrate the McClellan Committee. He hates Bobby Kennedy and his brother Jack, and he’s afraid their father will buy Jack the White House in ‘60. I’m now a fake FBI retiree on an indefinite assignment to cozy up to both brothers. I applied for a job as a temporary Committee investigator, and I got the word today that Bobby hired me. I’m flying to Miami in a few hours to look for a missing witness.”
Littell said, “Jesus Fucking Christ.”
Boyd said, “You never disappoint me.”
“I suppose you’re drawing two salaries?”
“You know I love money.”
“Yes, but do you like the brothers?”
“Yes, I do. Bobby’s a vindictive little bulldog, and Jack’s charming and not as smart as he thinks he is. Bobby’s the stronger man, and he hates organized crime like you do.”
Littell shook his head. “You don’t hate anything.”
“I can’t afford to.”
“I’ve never understood your loyalties.”
“Let’s just say they’re ambiguous.”
DOCUMENT INSERT: 12/2/88. Official FBI telephone call transcript: “Recorded at the Director’s Request”! “Classified Confidential 1-A: Director’s Eyes Only.” Speaking: Director Hoover, Special Agent Kemper Boyd.
JEH: Mr. Boyd?
KB: Sir, good morning.
JEH: Yes, It is a good morning. Are you calling from a secure phone?
KB: Yes. I’m at a coin phone. if the oonnection seems weak, it’s because I’m calling from Miami.
JEH: Little Brother has put you to work already?
KB: Little Brother doesn’t waste time.
JEH: Interpret your rapid hiring. Use names if you must.
KB: Little Brother was initially suspicious of me, and I think it will take time to win him over. I ran into Big Brother at Sally Lefferts’ office, and circumstances forced us into a private conversation. We went out for a drink and developed a rapport. Like many charming men, Big Brother is also easily charmed. We hit it off quite well, and I’m certain he told Little Brother to hire me.
JEH: Describe the “circumstances” you mentioned.
KB: We discovered that we shared an interest in sophisticated and provocative women, and we went to the Mayflower bar to discuss related matters. Big Brother confirmed that he is going to run in 1960, and that Little Brother will begin the campaign groundwork when the McClellan Committee mandate ends this coming April.
KB: Big Brother and I discussed politics. I portrayed myself as incongruously liberal by Bureau standards, which Big Brother-
JEH: You have no political convictions, which adds to your efficacy in situations like this. Continue.
KB: Big Brother found my feigned political convictions interesting and opened up. He said that he considers Little Brother’s hatred of Mr. H. somewhat untoward, although justified. Both Big Brother and their father have urged Little Brother to strategically retreat and offer Mr. H. a deal if he cleans up his organization, but Little Brother has refused. My personal opinion is that Mr. H. is legally inviolate at this time. Big Brother shares that opinion, as do a number of Committee investigators. Sir, I think Little Brother is ferociously dedicated and competent. My feeling is that he will take Mr. H. down, but not in the foreseeable future. I think It will take years and most likely many indictments, and that it certainly won’t happen within the Committee mandate time frame.
JEH: You’re saying the Committee will hand the ball to municipal grand juries once their mandate expires?
KB: Yes. I think it will take years for the Brothers to reap real political benefit from Mr. H. And I think a backlash might set in and hurt Big Brother. Democratic candidates can’t afford to be viewed as antiunion.
JEH: Your assessments seem quite astute.
KB: Thank you, Sir.
JEH: Did Big Brother bring my name up?
KB: Yes. He knows about your extensive files on politicians and movie stars you deem subversive, and he’s afraid you have a file on him. I told him your file on his family ran to a thousand pages.
JEH: Good. You would have lost credibility had you been less candid. What else did you and Big Brother discuss?
KB: Chiefly women. Big Brother mentioned a trip to Los Angeles on December 9th. I gave him the phone number of a promiscuous woman named Darleen Shoftel and urged him to call her.
JEH: Do you think he has called her?
KB: No, Sir. But I think he will.
JEH: Describe your duties for the Committee thus far.
KB: I’ve been looking for a subpoenaed witness named Anton Gretzler here in Florida. Little Brother wanted me to serve him a backup summons. There’s an aspect of this we should discuss, since Gretzler’s disappearance may tie in to a friend of yours.
KB: Gretzler was Mr. H.’s partner in the alleged Sun Valley land fraud. He-
JEH: You said “was.” You’re assuming Gretzler is dead?
KB: I’m certain he’s dead.
KB: He disappeared on the afternoon of November 26th. He told his secretary he was going to meet a “sales prospect” at Sun Valley and never returned. The Lake Weir Police found his car in a swamp marsh nearby, but they haven’t been able to locate a body. They canvassed for witnesses and turned up a man who was driving by Sun Valley on the Interstate at the same time the “sales prospect” was to meet Gretzler. The man said he saw a man parked on the Sun Valley access road. He said the man averted his face when he drove by, so it’s doubtful he could identify him. He did describe him, however. Six foot four or five, “huge,” two hundred and forty pounds. Dark hair, thirty-five to forty. I’m thinking it-
JEH: Your old friend Peter Bondurant. He’s singularly outsized., and he’s on that list of Mr. H.’s known associates that I gave you.
KB: Yes, Sir. I checked airline and car rental records in Los Angeles and Miami and turned up a Hughes Aircraft charge that I’m certain Bondurant made. I know he was in Florida on November 26th, and I’m circumstantially certain that Mr. H. hired him to kill Gretzler. I know that you and Howard Hughes are friends, so I thought I’d inform you of this before I told Little Brother.
JEH: Do not inform Little Brother under any circumstances. The status of your investigation should remain thus: Gretzler is missing, perhaps dead. There are no leads and no suspects. Pete Bondurant is invaluable to Howard Hughes, who is a valuable friend of the Bureau. Mr. Hughes recently purchased a scandal magazine to help disseminate political information favorable to the Bureau, and I do not want his feathers ruffled. Do you understand?
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: I want you to fly to Los Angeles on a Bureau charge and tweak Pete Bondurant with your suspicions. Get a favor from him, and cloak your friendly overtures with the knowledge that you can hurt him. And when your Committee duties permit, go back to Florida and clean up potential loose ends on the Gretzler front.
KB: I’ll wrap up here and fly to L.A. late tomorrow.
JEH: Good. And while you’re In Los Angeles, I want you to bug and wire Miss Darleen Shoftel’s home. If Big Brother contacts her, I want to know.
KB: She won’t voluntarily assent, so I’ll have to rig her apartment sub rosa. Can I bring In Ward Littell? He’s a great wire man.
JEH: Yes, bring him in. This reminds me that Littell has been coveting a Top Hoodlum Squad spot for some time. Do you think he’d like a transfer as a reward for this job?
KB: He’d love it.
JEH: Good, but let me be the one to inform him. Goodbye, Mr. Boyd. I commend you for work well done.
KB: Thank you, Sir. Goodbye.
(Beverly Hills, 12/4/58)
Howard Hughes cranked his bed up a notch. “I can’t tell you how lackluster the last two issues have been. Hush-Hush is a weekly now, which increases the need for interesting gossip incrementally. We need a new dirt digger. We’ve got you for story verification, Dick Steisel for legal vetting and So! Maltzman to write the pieces, but we’re only as good as our scandals, and our scandals have been chaste and ridiculously dull.”
Pete slouched in a chair and thumbed last week’s issue. On the cover: “Migrant Workers Carry VD Plague!” A co-feature: “Hollywood Ranch Market-Homo Heaven!”
“I’ll keep at it. We’re looking for a guy with unique fucking qualifications, and that takes time.”
Hughes said, “You do it. And tell Sol Maltzman that I want a piece entitled ‘Negroes: Overbreeding Creates TB Epidemic’ on next week’s cover.”
“That sounds pretty far-fetched.”
“Facts can be bent to conform to any thesis.”
“I’ll tell him, Boss.”
“Good. And while you’re out…”
“Will I get you some more dope and disposable hypos? Yes, sir!”
Hughes flinched and turned the TV on. “Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade” hit the bedroom-squealing tots and cartoon mice the size of Lassie.
Pete strolled out to the parking lot. Lounging upside his car like he owned it: Special Agent Kemper Fucking Boyd.
Six years older and still too handsome to live. That dark gray suit had to run four hundred clams easy.
“What is this?”
Boyd folded his arms over his chest. “This is a friendly errand for Mr. Hoover. He’s concerned about your extracurricular work for Jimmy Hoffa.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve got an ‘in’ on the McClellan Committee. They’ve got some pay phones near Hoffa’s house in Virginia rigged to register slug calls. That cheap fuck Hoffa makes his business calls from public booths and uses slugs.”
“Keep going. Your slug call pitch is bullshit, but let’s see where you’re taking it.”
Boyd winked-brass-balled motherfucker.
“One, Hoffa called you twice late last month. Two, you bought a round-trip L.A.-to-Miami ticket under an assumed name and charged it to Hughes Aircraft. Three, you rented a car at a Teamster-owned rent-a-car outlet and were maybe seen waiting for a man named Anton Gretzler. I think Gretzler’s dead, and I think Hoffa hired you to clip him.”
They’d never find a corpse: he tossed Gretzler in a swamp and watched gators eat him.
“So arrest me.”
“No. Mr. Hoover doesn’t like Bobby Kennedy, and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to upset Mr. Hughes. He can live with you and Jimmy on the loose, and so can I.”
“So let’s do something nice for Mr. Hoover.”
“Give me a hint. I’m just dying to roll over.”
Boyd smiled. “The head writer at Hush-Hush is a Commie. I know Mr. Hughes appreciates cheap help, but I still think you should fire him immediately.”
Pete said, “I’ll do that. And you tell Mr. Hoover that I’m a patriotic guy who knows how friendship works.”
Boyd waltzed off-no nod, no wink, suspect dismissed. He walked two car rows over and bagged a blue Ford with a Hertz bumper sticker.
The car pulled out. Boyd fucking waved.
Pete ran to the hotel phone bank and called information. An operator shot him the main Hertz number.
He dialed it. A woman answered: “Good morning, Hertz Rent-a-Car.”
“Good morning. This is Officer Peterson, LAPD. I need a current customer listing on one of your cars.”
“Has there been an accident?’
“No, it’s just routine. The car is a blue ‘56 Ford Fairlane, license V as in ‘Victor,’ D as in ‘dog,’ H as in ‘Henry,’ four-ninezero.”
“One minute, Officer.”
Pete held the line. Boyd’s McClellan pitch danced around in his head.
“I have your listing, Officer.”
“The car was rented to a Mr. Kemper C. Boyd, whose current Los Angeles address is the Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. The invoice says the charge is to be billed to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Investigations. Does that help?-”
Pete hung up. His head dance went stereophonic.
Strange: Boyd in a Committee-rented car. Strange because: Hoover and Bobby Kennedy were rivals. Boyd as FBI man and Committee cop?-Hoover would never allow him to moonlight.
Boyd was stylish working on slick-and a good man to front friendly warnings.
A good man to spy on Bobby?-”Maybe” working on “Yes.”
o o o
Sol Maltzman lived in Silverlake-a dive above a tax rental joint.
Pete knocked. Sol opened up, pissed-this knock-kneed geek in Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt.
“What is it, Bondurant? I’m very busy.”
“Bohn-dew-rahn”--the little Commie prick said it French-style.
The pad reeked of cigarettes and cat litter. Manila folders dripped off every stick of furniture; a wooden cabinet blocked the one window.
He’s got Hollywood dirt files. He’s just the type to hoard scandal skank.
“Bohn-dew-rahn, what is it?”
Pete grabbed a folder off a lamp stand. Press clippings on Ike and Dick Nixon-snoresville.
“Put that down and tell me what you want!”
Pete grabbed his neck. “You’re fired from Hush-Hush. I’m sure you’ve got some dirt files we can use, and if you point them out and save me trouble, I’ll tell Mr. Hughes to shoot you some severance pay.”
Sol flipped him off-the double bird, twirling at eye level.
Pete let him go. Dig his neck: 360’d by a jumbo hand print.
“I’ll bet you keep the good stuff in that cabinet.”
“No! There’s nothing in there you’d want!”
“Open it for me, then.”
“No! It’s locked, and I’m not giving you the combination!”
Pete kneed him in the balls. Maltzman hit the floor gasping. Pete tore his shirt off and stuffed a wad of fabric in his mouth.
Check that TV by the couch-gooood audial cover.
Pete tamed it on full blast. A car huckster hit the screen, screaming shit about the new Buick line. Pete pulled his piece and shot the padlock off the cabinet-wood chips sprayed out craaaazy.
Three files fell out-maybe thirty skank pages total.
Sol Maltzman shrieked through his gag. Pete kicked him unconscious and turned the TV down.
o o o
He had three files and a bad case of the post-strongarm hungries. The ticket was Mike Lyman’s and the Steak Lunch De-Luxe.
Dirt De-Luxe pending: Sol wouldn’t hoard bum information.
Pete took a back booth and noshed a T-bone and hash browns. He laid the folders out for easy perusal.
The first file featured document photos and typed notes. No Hollywood gossip; no Hush-Hush feature ammo.
The pix detailed bankbook tallies and an income tax return. The tax filer’s name came off familiar: Mr. Hughes’ pal George Killebrew, some Tricky Dick Nixon flunky.
The name on the bankbook was “George Killington.” The 1957 deposit total was $87,416.04. George Killebrew’s reported income for the year: $16,830.00.
A two-syllable name change-hiding over seventy grand.
Sol Maltzman wrote: “Bank employees confirm that Killebrew deposited the entire $87,000 in five to ten thousand dollar cash increments. They also confirm that the tax identification number that he gave was false. He withdrew the entire amount in cash, along with six thousand odd dollars in interest, closing out the account before the bank sent out its standard notification of interest income to the Federal tax authorities.”
Unreported income and unreported bank interest. Bingo: felony tax fraud.
Pete made a late snap-connection.
The House Committee on Un-American Activists fucked Sol Maltzman. Dick Nixon was a HUAC member; George Killebrew worked for him.
File #2 featured blow-job pix galore. The suckee: a teenage pansy. The sucker, Sol Maltzman identified: “HUAC counsel Leonard Hosney, 43, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. My souldebilitating work for Hush-Hush finally paid off in the form of a tip proffered by a bouncer at a male brothel in Hermosa Beach. He took the photos and assured me that the boy is a minor. He will be supplying additional documentation photos in the near future.”
Pete chained a cigarette butt to tip. The Big Picture came into focus.
The files were Sol’s revenge against HUAC. It was some kind of fucked-up penance: Sol wrote right-wing-slanted smears and stashed this shit for belated payback.
File #3 packed more photos: of canceled checks, deposit slips and bank notes. Pete shoved his food aside-this was smear bait supreme.
Sol Maltzman wrote: “The political implications of Howard Hughes’ 1956 loan of $200,000 to Richard Nixon’s brother Donald are staggering, especially since Nixon is expected to be the 1960 Republican Presidential nominee. This is a clear-cut case of an immensely wealthy industrialist buying political influence. It can be circumstantially supported by serving up many verifiable examples of Nixon-initiated policy directly beneficial to Hughes.”
Pete rechecked the evidence pix. The verification was solid- straight down the line.
His food was cold. He’d sweated his shirt starched to wilted.
Insider knowledge was a big fucking blast.
o o o
His day was all aces and 8s-some dead man’s hand he couldn’t play or fold.
He could hold onto the Hughes/Nixon dirt. He could let Gail take Sol’s job at Hush-Hush-she’d done magazine work before-she was tired of divorce shakedowns anyway.
The HUAC staff was aces flush, but MONEY angles eluded him. Kemper Boyd’s walk-on had his antenna feelers perk-perkperking.
Pete drove to the Miramar Hotel and staked out the parking lot. Boyd’s car was stashed back by the pool. Lots of women in swimsuits were out sunning-surveillance conditions could be worse.
Hours dragged by. The women came and went. Dusk hampered and shut down the view.
Miami crossed his mind-tiger-striped cabs and hungry gators.
6:00 p.m., 6:30, 7:00. 7:22: Boyd and Ward Fucking Littell walking by the pool.
They got into Boyd’s rent-a-car. They pulled out onto Wilshire eastbound.
Littell was Joe Scaredy Cat to Boyd’s Cool Cat. Memory Lane: those Feds and him shared a history.
Pete eased into traffic behind them. They did a two-car rollout: east on Wilshire, Barrington north to Sunset. Pete dawdled back and leapfrogged lanes-mobile bird-dog jobs jazzed him.
He was good. Boyd was unhip to the tail-he could tell.
They cruised east on Sunset: Beverly Hills, the Strip, Hollywood. Boyd turned north on Alta Vista and parked-midway down a block of small stucco houses.
Pete slid to the curb three doors up. Boyd and Littell got out; a streetlamp lit their moves.
They put on gloves. They grabbed flashlights. Littell unlocked the trunk and picked up a tool box.
They walked up to a pink stucco house, picked the lock and entered.
Flashlight beams crisscrossed the windows. Pete U-turned and spotted the curb plate: 1541 North.
It had to be a bug/wire job. FBI men called B amp;E’s “black baggers.”
The living-room lights snapped on. The fuckers were going at it brazen.
Pete grabbed his reverse bookoff the backseat. He skimmed it by the dashboard light.
1541 North Alta Vista matched to: Darleen Shoftel, HO3-681l.
Bug jobs took about an hour-he could run her through R amp;I. He saw a phone booth back at the corner-he could call and watch the house simultaneous.
He walked down and buzzed the County line. Karen Hiltscher picked up-he recognized her voice immediately.
“Records and Information.”
“Karen, it’s Pete Bondurant.”
“You knew it was me after all this time?”
“I guess it’s just one of those voices. Look, can you run somebody for me?”
“I suppose, even though you’re not a deputy sheriff anymore, and I really shouldn’t.”
“You’re a pal.”
“I sure am, especially after the way you-”
“The name’s Darleen Shoftel. That’s D-A-R-L-E-E-N, S-H-O-F-T-E-L. The last known address I have is 1541 North Alta Vista, Los Angeles. Check all-”
“I know what to do, Pete. You just hold the line.”
Pete held. House lights blinked up the block-covert Feds at work.
Karen came back on. “Darleen Shoftel, white female, DOB 3/9/32. No wants, no warrants, no criminal record. She’s clean with the DMV, but West Hollywood Vice has a blue sheet on her. There’s one notation, dated 8/14/57. It says that a complaint was filed against her by the management at Dino’s Lodge. She was soliciting for acts of prostitution at the bar. She was questioned and released, and the investigating detective described her as a ‘highclass call girl.’”
“That’s not bad for one phone call.”
Pete hung up. He saw the house lights blip off and checked his watch.
Boyd and Littell walked out and loaded their car. Sixteen minutes flat-a black-bag world record.
They drove away. Pete leaned against the booth and worked up a scenario.
Sol Maltzman was working up his own scheme, unknown to the Feds. Boyd was in town to warn him on the Gretzler hit and hot-wire a call girl’s pad. Boyd was a glib liar: “I’ve got an ‘in’ on the McClellan Committee.”
Boyd knew he clipped Gretzler-a McClellan Committee witness. Boyd told Hoover he clipped Gretzler. Hoover said, That’s no skin off my ass.
Boyd’s car: McClellan Committee-vouchered. Hoover: wellknown Bobby Kennedy hater and subterfuge king. Boyd, smooth and educated: probably a good infiltration man.
Question #1: Did the infiltration tie in to the wire job? Question #2: If this turns into money, who signs my paycheck?
Maybe Jimmy Hoffa-the McClellan Committee’s chief target. Fred Turentine could piggyback the Fed wiring and pick up every word the Feds did.
Pete saw $$$’s-like a 3-across slot-machine jackpot.
o o o
He drove home to the watchdog pad. Gail was on the portico- her cigarette tip bobbed and dipped, like she was pacing.
He parked and walked up. He kicked an overflowing ashtray and spilled butts on some prize rosebushes.
Gail backed away from him. Pete kept his voice soft and low.
“How long have you been out here?’
“For hours. Sol was calling every ten minutes, begging for his files. He said you stole some files of his and pushed him around.”
“It was business.”
“He was frantic. I couldn’t listen.”
Pete reached for her arms. “It’s cold out. Let’s go inside.”
“No. I don’t want to.”
She pulled away. “No! I don’t want to go back in that big awful house!”
Pete cracked some knuckles. “I’ll take care of Sol. He won’t bother you anymore.”
Gail laughed-shrill and weird and something else. “I know he won’t.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean he’s dead. I called him back to try to calm him down, and a policeman answered the phone. He said Sol shot himself.”
Pete shrugged. He didn’t know what to do with his hands.
Gail ran to her car. She stripped gears pulling out of the driveway-and almost plowed a woman pushing a baby carriage.
(Washington, D.C., 12/7/58)
Ward was scared. Kemper knew why: Mr. Hoover’s private briefings spawned legends.
They waited in his outer office. Ward sat hold-your-breath still. Kemper knew: he’ll be twenty minutes late exactly.
He wants Ward cowed. He wants me here to buttress the effect.
He’d already phoned in his report: The Shoftel job went perfectly. A Los Angeles-based agent was assigned to monitor the bug and wiretap recordings from a listening post and forward the salient tapes to Littell in Chicago. Ace wire man Ward would cull them-and send the best excerpts to Mr. Hoover.
Jack wasn’t due in L.A. until December 9th. Darleen Shoftel was servicing four tricks a night-the listening-post man praised her stamina. The L.A. Times ran a brief mention of Sol Maltzman’s suicide. Mr. Hoover said Pete Bondurant probably “fired him” rather harshly.
Ward crossed his legs and straightened his necktie. Don’t: Mr. Hoover hates fidgeters. He ordered us here to reward you-so please do not fidget.
Hoover walked in. Kemper and Littell stood up.
“Gentlemen, good morning.”
They said, “Good morning, Sir”-in unison, with no overlap.
“I’m afraid this will have to be brief. I’m meeting Vice President Nixon shortly.”
Littell said, “I’m very pleased to be here, Sir.”
Kemper almost winced: Do not interject comments, however servile.
“My schedule forces me to effect brevity. Mr. Littell, I appreciate the job you and Mr. Boyd did in Los Angeles. I’m rewarding you with a position on the Chicago Top Hoodlum Squad. I’m doing this at the displeasure of SAC Leahy, who considers you best suited for political surveillance work. I realize, Mr. Littell, that you consider the CPUSA ineffectual, if not moribund. I deem this attitude dangerously fatuous, and sincerely hope you’ll outgrow it. You’re a personal colleague of mine now, but I warn you not to be seduced by the dangerous life. You can’t possibly be as good at it as Kemper Boyd is.”
(Washington, D.C., 12/8/58)
Littell did paperwork in his bathrobe.
He did it exultantly hung over: they celebrated with Cordon Rouge and Glenlivet. The damage showed: empty bottles and room-service carts piled with untouched food.
Kemper showed restraint. He didn’t. Hoover’s “brevity” stung; champagne and scotch let him make fun of it. Coffee and aspirin hardly dented his hangover.
A snowstorm closed the airport-he was stuck in his hotel room. Hoover sent up a mimeo file for him to study.
CHICAGO TOP HOODLUM SQUAD CONFIDENTIAL: CRIME FIGURES, LOCATIONS, METHODS OF OPERATION AND RELATED OBSERVATIONS.
It ran sixty detail-padded pages. Littell popped two more aspirin and underlined salient facts.
The current stated goal of the Top Hoodlum Program (outlined in Bureau Directive #3401, 12/19/57) is the gathering of organized crime intelligence. At this date, and until direct notice of a superseding policy, any and all criminal intelligence gathered is to be retained solely for future use. The Top Hoodlum Program is not mandated to gather inteffigence to be employed in the process of directly building cases for Federal prosecution. Criminal intelligence obtained through electronic surveillance methods may be, at the discretion of the Regional SAC, transmitted to municipal police agencies and prosecuting bodies.
The elliptical gist: Hoover knows you can’t prosecute the Mob and consistently win. He won’t sacrifice Bureau prestige for occasional convictions.
Top Hoodlum Program squads may employ electronic surveillance methods on their own autonomy. Verbatim tape and transcription logs are to be rigorously kept and transmitted to the Regional SAC for periodic review.
Bug-and-tap carte blanche-good.
The Chicago THP Squad has effected an electronic surveillance penetration (microphone placements only) at Celano’s Custom Tailors, 620 North Michigan Avenue. Both the U.S. Attorney’s Office (Northern illinois Region) and the Cook County Sheriff’s Intelligence Division consider this location to be the informal headquarters of ranking Chicago mobsters, their chief lieutenants and selected underlings. A comprehensive tape and stenographer-transcribed inteffigence library has been established on the listening post premises.
The suborning of informants should be considered a priority of all THP agents. As of this (12/19/57) date, no informants with intimate knowledge of the Chicago Crime Syndicate have been activated. Note: All transactions involving the exchange of informant intelligence for Bureau-vouchered monies must first be approved by the Regional SAC.
Translation: FIND YOUR OWN SNITCH.
The Top Hoodlum Program mandate currently allows for the assignment of six agents and one secretary/stenographer per regional office. Yearly budgets are not to exceed the guidelines established in Bureau directive #3403, 12/19/57.
Budget stats droned on. Littell flipped to CRIME FIGURES.
Sam Giancana, born 1908. AKA “Mo,” “Momo,” “Mooney.” Giancana is the Chicago Mob “Boss of Bosses.” He follows Al Capone, Paul “The Waiter” Ricca and Anthony “Joe Batters”/ ‘Big Tuna” Accaido as the Chicago overlord of all gambling, loansharking, numbers, vending machine, prostitution and labor rackets. Giancana has been personally involved in numerous Mob-related killings. He was rejected for World War II service as a “constitutional psychopath.” Giancana lives in suburban Oak Park He is frequently seen hi the company of his personal bodyguard Dominic Michael Montalvo, AKA “Butch Montrose,” born 1919. Giancana is a close personal associate of International Brotherhood of Teamsters President James Riddle Hoffa. He is rumored to have a voice in the loan selection process of the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund, an exceedingly rich and dubiously administered union trust believed to have financed many illegal ventures.
Gus Alex, born 1916. (Numerous AKA’s.) Alex is the former North Side rackets boss now deployed as the Chicago Mob’s political “fixer” and liaison to corrupt elements within the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office. He is a closely allied associate of Murray Llewellyn Humphreys, AKA “Hump” and “The Camel,” born 1899. Humphreys is the Chicago Mob’s “elder statesman.” He is semi-retired,, but is sometimes consulted on Chicago Mob policy decisions.
John “Johnny” Rosselli, born 1905. Rosselli is a closely allied associate of Sam Giancana and serves as the front man of the Chicago Mob-owned Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Rosselli is rumored to have substantial casino-hotel holdings in Havana, Cuba, along with Cuban gambling magnates Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello, the Mob bosses of Tampa, Florida, and New Orleans, Louisiana, respectively.
Known-associate and investment lists followed. Staggering: Giancana/Hoffa/Rosselli/Trafficante/Marcello et al. knew every major hoodlum in every major U.S. city and owned legitimate interests in trucking firms, nightclubs, factories, race horses, banks, movie theaters, amusement parks and over three hundred Italian restaurants. Their collective indictment-to-conviction ratio: 308 to 14.
Littell skimmed an appendix: MINOR CRIME FIGURES. Mob bosses wouldn’t snitch-but the little fish might.
Jacob Rubenstein, born 1911. AKA “Jack Ruby.” This man operates a striptease club in Dallas, Texas, and is known to dabble in small-time loansharking. He is rumored to occasionally transmit Chicago Mob money to Cuban politicians, including President Fulgencio Batista and rebel leader Fidel Castro. Rubenstein/Ruby is Chicago-born and has maintained extensive ties within the Chicago Mob. He is a frequent Chicago visitor.
Herschel Meyer Ryskind, born 1901. AKA “Hersh,” “Hesh,” “Heshie.” This man is a former (circa 1930s) member of the Detroit-based ‘Purple Gang.’ He resides in Arizona and Texas, but maintains strong Chicago Mob ties. He is rumored to be active in the Gulf Coast heroin trade. He is alleged to be a close friend of Sam Giancana and James Riddle Hoffa and is said to have mediated labor disputes for the Chicago Mob.
“Alleged to be”/”rumored to have”/”believed to be.” Key phrases revealing a key truth: the file read noncommittal and equivocal. Hoover didn’t really hate the Mob-the THP was his response to Apalachin.
Lenny Sands, born 1924. (Formerly Leonard Joseph Seidelwitz), AKA “Jewboy Lenny.” This man is considered to be a mascot to the Chicago Mob. His nominal occupation is lounge entertainer. He frequently entertains at Chicago Mob and Cook County Teamster gatherings. Sands is said to have occasionally delivered Chicago Mob funds to Cuban police officials as part of the Chicago Mob’s efforts to maintain a friendly political climate in Cuba and insure the continued success of their Havana casinos. Sands has a vending machine pick-up route and is a salaried employee of the Chicago Mob’s quasi-legitimate “Vendo-King” business front. (Note: Sands is a well-established Las Vegas/Los Angeles entertainment business “fringe character.” He is also rumored to have given U.S. Senator John Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) speech lessons during his 1946 Congressional campaign.)
A Mob flunky knew Jack Kennedy. And he wired a whore’s pad to entrap him.
Littell jumped back and forth: MINOR CRIME FIGURES to RELATED OBSERVATIONS.
Chicago Mob territories are geographically divided. The North Side, Near North Side, West Side, South Side, Loop, Lakefront and northern suburb areas are ran by underbosses who report directly to Sam Giancana.
Mario Salvatore D’Onofrio, born 1912. AKA “Mad Sal.” This man is an independent loan shark and bookmaker. He is allowed to operate because he pays Sam Giancana a large operating tribute. D’Onofrio was convicted of 2nd Degree Manslaughter in 1951 and served a five-year sentence at the Illinois State Penitentiary at Joliet. A prison psychiatrist described him as a “Psychopathically-derived criminal sadist with uncontrollable psycho-sexual urges to inflict pain.” He was recently a suspect in the torture-murders of two Bob O’Link Country Club golf professionals rumored to owe him money.
Independent bookmaker-loan sharks flourish in Chicago. This is due to Sam Giancana’s policy of extracting high-percentage operating tributes. One of Giancana’s most fearsome underbosses, Anthony “Icepick Tony” Iannone (born 1917), serves as the Chicago Mob’s liaison to independent bookmaker-loanshark factions. Iannone is strongly believed to be responsible for the mutilation murders of no less than nine heavily indebted loanshark customers.
Names jumped out. Odd appellations made him laugh.
Tony “the Ant” Spilotro, Felix “Milwaukee Phil” Alderisio, Frank “Franky Strongy” Ferraro.
Joe Amato, Joseph Cesar Di Varco, Jackie “Jackie the Lackey” Cerone.
The Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund remains a source of constant law enforcement speculation. Does Sam Giancana have final Fund loan approval? What is the established protocol for granting loans to criminals, quasi-legitimate businessmen and labor racketeers seeking capital?
Jimmy “Turk” Torello, Louie “the Mooch” Eboli.
The Miami PD Intelligence Squad believes that Sam Giancana is a silent partner in the Tiger Kab Kompany, a Teamster-owned taxi service run by Cuban refugees believed to possess extensive criminal records.
Daniel “Donkey Dan” Versace, “Fat Bob” Paolucci-
The phone rang. Littell fumbled for it-eyestrain had him seeing double.
“What have you been doing? When I left you were two sheets to the wind.”
Littell laughed. “I’ve been reading the THP file. And so far, I’m not too impressed with Mr. Hoover’s anti-Mob mandate.”
“Watch your mouth, he might have bugged your room.”
“That’s a cruel thought.”
“Yes, if not far-fetched. Ward, look, it’s still snowing, and you’ll never be able to fly out today. Why don’t you meet me at the Committee office? Bobby and I are grilling a witness. He’s a Chicago man, and you might learn something.”
“I could use some air. You’re at the old Senate Office Building?”
“Right, suite 101. I’ll be in interview room A. It’s got an observation corridor, so you’ll be able to watch. And remember my cover. I’m retired from the FBI.”
“You’re a glib dissembler, Kemper. It’s rather sad.”
“Don’t get lost in the snow.”
o o o
The setup was perfect: a closed hallway with one-way glass access and wall-mounted speakers. Partitioned off in cubicle A: the Kennedy brothers, Kemper, and a blond man.
Cubicles B, C and D were vacant. He had the watching gallery to himself-the snowstorm must have scared people home.
Littell hit the speaker switch. Voices crackled out with minimum static.
The men sat around a desk. Robert Kennedy played host and worked the tape recorder.
“Take your time, Mr. Kirpaski. You’re a voluntary witness, and we’re here at your disposal.”
The blond man said, “Call me Roland. Nobody calls me Mr. Kirpaski.”
Kemper grinned. “Any man who rolls over on Jimmy Hoffa deserves that formality.”
Brilliant Kemper-reviving his Tennessee drawl.
Roland Kirpaski said, “That’s nice, I guess. But you know, Jimmy Hoffa’s Jimmy Hoffa. What I mean is, it’s like they say about the elephant. He don’t forget.”
Robert Kennedy laced his hands behind his head. “Hoffa will have plenty of time in prison to remember everything that put him there.”
Kirpaski coughed. “I’d like to say something. And I’d… uh… like to read it off when I testify in front of the Committee.”
Kemper said, “Go ahead.”
Kirpaski leaned his chair back. “I’m a union guy. I’m a Teamster. Now, I told you all them stories about Jimmy doing this and doing that, you know, telling his guys to lean on these other guys that wouldn’t play ball and so forth. I guess maybe all that stuff is illegal, but you know what? That don’t bother me so much. The only reason I’m so-called rolling over on Jimmy is because I can add up two and two and get four, and I heard enough at fucking Chicago Local 2109 to figure out that Jimmy Fucking Hoffa is cutting side deals with management, which means that he is a scab piece of shit, pardon my French, and I want to go on the record as saying that that is my motive for ratting him off.”
John Kennedy laughed. Littell flashed on the Shoftel job and winced.
Robert Kennedy said, “Duly noted, Roland. You’ll be able to read any statement you like before you testify. And remember, we’re saving your testimony for a televised session. Millions of people will see you.”
Kemper said, “The more publicity you get, the more unlikely it is that Hoffa will attempt reprisals.”
Kirpaski said, “Jimmy don’t forget. He’s like an elephant that way. You know those gangster pictures you showed me? Those guys I saw Jimmy with?”
Robert Kennedy held up some photos. “Santo Trafficante Jr. and Carlos Marcello.”
Kirpaski nodded. “Right. I also want to go on the record as saying that I’ve heard good things about those guys. I heard they hire union men exclusively. No Mafia guy ever said, ‘Roland, you’re a dumb Southside Polack’ to me. Like I said, they visited Jimmy at his suite at the Drake, and all they talked about was the weather, the Cubs and politics in Cuba. I want to go on the record as saying I got no gripe against the fucking Mafia.”
Kemper winked at the one-way. “Neither does J. Edgar Hoover.”
Littell laughed. Kirpaski said, “What?”
Robert Kennedy drummed the table. “Mr. Boyd is performing for some unseen colleague of his. Now, Roland, let’s get back to Miami and Sun Valley.”
Kirpaski said, “I’d like to. Jesus, this snow.”
Kemper stood up and stretched his legs. “Walk us through your observations again.”
Kirpaski sighed. “I was a Chicago delegate to the convention last year. We stayed at the Deauville in Miami. I was still friendly with Jimmy then, because I hadn’t figured out he was a scab cocksucker cutting side deals with-”
Robert Kennedy cut in. “Stick to the point, please.”
“The point is I ran some errands for Jimmy. I went by the Tiger Kab stand, which is spelled with a goddamn K, and picked up some cash so Jimmy could take some guys from the Miami locals out on a boat to shoot sharks with Tommy guns, which is one of Jimmy’s favorite Florida things to do. I must have picked up three grand easy. The cabstand was like the planet Mars. All these crazy Cuban guys wearing tiger-colored shirts. The boss Cuban was this guy Fulo. He was selling these hot TVs out of the parking lot. The Tiger Kab business is strictly cash-operated. If you want my considered opinion, it’s a tax evasion bounce looking to happen.”
Static rattled the speaker-Littell tapped the squelch button and smoothed the volume out. John Kennedy looked bored and restless.
Robert Kennedy doodled on a notepad. “Tell us about Anton Gretzler again.”
Kirpaski said, “We all went out shark shooting. Gretzler came along. Him and Jimmy were talking by themselves over on one end of the boat away from the shark shooters. I was down in the can, being seasick. I guess they thought they had privacy, because they were talking up this not-too-legal-sounding stuff, which I want to go on the record as stating was no skin off my ass, because it didn’t involve collusion with management.”
John Kennedy tapped his watch. Kemper prompted Kirpaski. “What exactly did they discuss?”
“Sun Valley. Gretzler said he had land surveys done, and his surveyor said the land wouldn’t fall into the swamp for five years or so, which would let them off the hook, legally speaking. Jimmy said he could tap the Pension Fund for three million dollars to purchase the land and prefab material, and maybe they could pocket some cash up front.”
Robert Kennedy jumped up. His chair crashed-the one-way glass shimmied. “That is very strong testimony! That is a virtual admission of conspiracy to commit land fraud and intent to defraud the Pension Fund!”
Kemper picked the chair up. “It’s only courtroom valid if Gretzler corroborates it or perjures himself denying it. Without Gretzler, it’s Roland’s word versus Hoffa’s. It comes down to credibility, and Roland has two drunk-driving convictions while Hoffa’s record is technically clean.”
Bobby fumed. Kemper said, “Bob, Gretzler has to be dead. His car was dumped in a swamp, and the man himself can’t be found. I’ve put a lot of hours in trying to find him, and I haven’t turned up one viable lead.”
“He could have faked his own death to avoid appearing before the Committee.”
“I think that’s unlikely.”
Bobby straddled his chair and gripped down on the slats. “You may be right. But I may still send you down to Florida to make sure.”
Kirpaski said, “I’m hungry.”
Jack rolled his eyes. Kemper winked at him.
Kirpaski sighed. “I said I’m hungry.”
Kemper checked his watch. “Wrap it up for the senator, Roland. Tell us how Gretzler got drunk and shot his mouth off.”
“I get the picture. Sing for your supper.”
Bobby said, “Goddamnit-”
“All right, all right. It was after the shark shoot. Gretzler was pissed because Jimmy ridiculed him for holding his Tommy gun like a sissy. Grander started talking up these rumors he’d heard about the Pension Fund. He said he heard the Fund is a lot fucking richer than people knew, and nobody could subpoena the books, because the books weren’t real. See, Gretzler said there were these ‘real’ Teamster Fund books, probably in code, with fucking tens of millions of dollars accounted for in them. This money gets loaned out at these exorbitant rates. There’s supposed to be some retired Chicago gangster-a real brain-who’s the bookkeeper for the ‘real’ books and the ‘real’ money, and if you’re thinking about corroboration, forget it-I’m the only one Gretzler was talking to.”
Bobby Kennedy pushed his hair back. His voice went high, like an excited child’s.
“It’s our big wedge, Jack. First we subpoena the front books again and determine their solvency. We trace the loaned-out money the Teamsters admit to and try to determine the existence of hidden assets within the Fund and the probability that those ‘real’ books exist.”
Littell pressed up to the glass. He felt magnetized: tousle-haired, passionate Bobby-
Jack Kennedy coughed. “It’s strong stuff. if you can produce verifiable testimony on those books before the Committee’s mandate ends.”
Kirpaski applauded. “Hey, he speaks. Hey, Senator, glad you could join us.”
Jack Kennedy cringed, mock-wounded. Bobby said, “My investigators will be forwarding our evidence along to other agencies. Whatever we dig up will be acted on.”
Jack said, “Eventually?” Littell translated: “Too late to bolster my career.”
The brothers locked eyes. Kemper leaned across the table between them. “Hoffa’s got a block of houses set up at Sun Valley. He’s down there himself, giving PR tours. Roland’s going down to look around. He runs a Chicago local, so it won’t look suspicious. He’ll be calling in to report what he sees.”
Kirpaski said, “Yeah, and I’m also gonna ‘see’ this cocktail waitress I met when I went down for the convention. But you know what? I’m not gonna tell my wife she’s on the menu.”
Jack motioned Kemper in close. Littell caught static-laced whispers:
“I’m flying to L.A. when this snow lets up.”/”Call Darleen Shoftel-I’m sure she’d love to meet you.”
Kirpaski said, “I’m hungry.”
Robert Kennedy packed his briefcase. “Come on, Roland. You can join the family for supper at my house. Try not to say ‘fuck’ around my children, though. They’ll learn the concept soon enough.”
The men filed out a back door. Littell hugged the glass for one last look at Bobby.
(Los Angeles, 12/9/58)
Darleen Shoftel faked a mean climax. Darleen Shoftel had whore pals over for shop talk.
Darleen was a bigggg name dropper.
She said Franchot Tone dug bondage. She called Dick Contino a champion muff diver. She dubbed B-movie man Steve Cochran “Mr. King Size.”
Phone calls came in and went out. Darleen talked to tricks, hooker chums and Mom in Vincennes, Indiana.
Darleen loved to talk. Darleen said nothing to explain why two Feds wired her crib.
They attached the Fed apparatus four days ago. 1541 North Alta Vista was miked up floor to rafters.
Fred Turentine piggybacked the Boyd/Littell setup. He heard everything the FBI heard. The Feds ranted a listening-post house down the block; Freddy monitored his hookups from a van parked next door and kept Pete supplied with tape copies.
And Pete smelled money and called Jimmy Hoffa-maybe a bit premature.
Jimmy said, “You got a good sense of smell. Come down to Miami on Thursday and tell me what you got. If you got nothing, we can go out on my boat and shoot sharks.”
Thursday was tomorrow. Shark shooting was strictly for geeks. Freddy’s pay was two hundred a day-steep for a crash course in extraneous sex jive.
Pete moped around the watchdog house. Pete savored the hints he dropped on Mr. Hughes: I know you lent Dick Nixon’s brother some coin. Pete kept playing the piggyback tapes out of sheer boredom.
He hit Play. Darleen moaned and groaned. Bedsprings creaked; something headboard-like slammed something wall-like. Dig it: Darleen with a big fat porker in the saddle.
The phone rang-Pete grabbed it fast.
“It’s Fred. Get over here now-we just hit paydirt.”
o o o
The van was crammed with contraptions and gadgets. Pete banged his knees climbing in.
Freddy looked all hopped up. His zipper was down, like he’d been choking the chicken.
He said, “I recognized that Boston accent immediately, and I called you the second they started screwing. Listen, this is live.”
Pete put on headphones. Darleen Shoftel spoke, loud and clear.
“…you’re a bigger hero than your brother. I read about you in Time magazine. Your PT boat got rammed by the Japs or something.”
“I’m a better swimmer than Bobby, that’s certainly true.” 3-cherry jackpot: Gail Hendee’s old squeeze, Jack the K.
Darleen: “I saw your brother’s picture in Newsweek magazine. Doesn’t he have like four thousand kids?”
Jack: “At least three thousand, with new ones popping up all the time. When you visit his house the little shits attach themselves to your ankles. My wife finds Bobby’s need to breed vulgar.”
Darleen: “‘Need to breed’-that’s cute.”
Jack: “Bobby’s a true Catholic. He needs to have children and punish the men that he hates. If his hate instincts weren’t so unerring, he’d be a colossal pain in the ass.”
Pete clamped his headset down. Jack Kennedy talked, postfuck languid:
“I don’t hate like Bobby does. Bobby hates with a fury. Bobby hates Jimmy Hoffa very powerfully and simply, which is why he’ll win in the end. I was in Washington with him yesterday. He was taking a deposition from a Teamster man who’d become disgusted with Hoffa and had decided to inform on him. Here’s this dumb brave Polack, Roland something from Chicago, and Bobby takes him home for dinner with his family. You see, uh…”
“Right, Darleen. You see, Darleen, Bobby’s more heroic than I am because he’s truly passionate and generous.”
Gadgets blinked. Tape spun. They hit the royal flush/Irish Sweepstakes jackpot-Jimmy Hoffa would SHIT when he heard it.
Darleen: “I still think that PT boat thing was pretty swell.”
Jack: “You know, you’re a good listener, Arlene.”
Fred looked ready to DROOL. His fucking eyes were dollar-sign dilated.
Pete made fists. “This is mine. You just sit tight and do what I tell you to.”
Freddy cringed. Pete smiled-his hands put the fear out every time.
o o o
A Tiger Kab met his plane. The driver talked Cuban politics nonstop: El grande Castro advancing! El puto Batista in retreat!
Pancho dropped him off at the cabstand. Jimmy had the dispatch shack commandeered-goons were packing up life jackets and Tommy guns.
Hoffa shooed them out. Pete said, “Jimmy, how are you?”
Hoffa picked up a nail-studded baseball bat. “I’m all right. You like this? Sometimes the sharks get up close to the boat and you can give them a few whacks.”
Pete opened up his tape rig and plugged it into a floor outlet. The tiger-stripe wallpaper made his head swim.
“It’s cute, but I brought something better.”
“You said you smelled money. That’s gotta mean my money for your trouble.”
“There’s a story behind it.”
“I don’t like stories, unless I’m the hero. And you know I’m a busy-”
Pete put a hand on his arm. “An FBI man braced me. He said he had an ‘in’ on the McClellan Committee. He said he made me for the Gretzler job, and he said Mr. Hoover didn’t care. You know Hoover, Jimmy. He’s always left you and the Outfit alone.”
Hoffa pulled his arm loose. “So? You think they’ve got evidence? Is that what that tape’s all about?”
“No. I think the Fed’s spying on Bobby Kennedy and the Committee for Hoover, or something like that, and I think Hoover’s on our side. I tailed the guy and his partner up to a fuck pad in Hollywood. They bugged and wired it, and my guy Freddy Turentine hooked up a piggyback. Now, listen.”
Hoffa tapped his foot like he was bored. Hoffa brushed tigerstriped lint off his shirt.
Pete tapped Play. Tape hissed. Sex groans and mattress squeaks escalated.
Pete timed the fuck. Senator John F. Kennedy: 2.4-minute man.
Darleen Shoftel faked a climax. There, that Boston bray: “My goddamn back gave out.”
Darleen said, “It was goooood. Short and sweet’s the best.”
Jimmy twirled his baseball bat. Goose bumps bristled up his arms.
Pete pushed buttons and cut to the good stuff. Two-Minute Jack rhapsodized:
“…a Teamster man who’d become disgusted with Hoffa this dumb brave Polack, Roland something from Chicago.”
Hoffa popped goose bumps. Hoffa choked up a grip on his bat.
“This Roland something has working-class panache… Bobby’s got his teeth in Hoffa. When Bobby bites down he doesn’t let go.”
Hoffa popped double goose bumps. Hoffa went bug-eyed like a fright-wig nigger.
Pete stood back.
Hoffa let fly-watch that nail-topped Louisville Slugger GO-
Chairs got smashed to kindling. Desks got knocked legless. Walls got spike-gouged down to the baseboard.
Pete stood way back. A glowing plastic Jesus doorstop got shattered into eight million pieces.
Paper stacks flew. Wood chips ricocheted. Drivers watched from the sidewalk-Jimmy roundhoused the window and glassblasted them.
James Riddle Hoffa: heaving and voodoo-eyed stuporous.
His bat snagged on a doorjamb. Jimmy stared at it-say what?
Pete grabbed him in a bear hug. Jimmy’s eyes rolled back, catatonic-style.
Hoffa flailed and squirmed. Pete squeezed him close to breathless and baby-talked him.
“I can keep Freddy on the piggyback for two hundred a day. Sooner or later we might get something you can fuck the Kennedys with. I’ve got some political dirt files, too. They might do us some good someday.”
Hoffa focused in half-lucid. His voice came out laughing-gas squeaky.
“What… do… you… want?”
“Mr. Hughes is going nuts. I was thinking I’d get next to you and cover my bets.”
Hoffa squirmed free. Pete almost choked on his smell: sweat and bargain-basement cologne.
His color receded. He caught his breath. His voice went down a few octaves.
“I’ll give you 5% of this cabstand. You keep the piggyback going in L.A. and show up here once in a while to keep these Cubans in line. Don’t try to Jew me up to 10%, or I’ll say ‘fuck you’ and send you back to L.A. on the bus.”
Pete said, “It’s a deal.”
Jimmy said, “I’ve got a job in Sun Valley. I want you to come with me.”
o o o
They took a Tiger Kab out. Shark-shoot goodies bulged up the trunk: nail bats, Tommy guns and suntan oil.
Fulo Machado drove. Jimmy wore fresh threads. Pete forgot to bring spare clothes-Hoffa’s stink stuck to him.
Nobody talked-Jimmy Hoffa sulking killed chitchat. They passed buses filled with Teamster chumps headed for the suckerbait tract pads.
Pete did mental arithmetic.
Twelve cab drivers working around-the-clock. Twelve men with Jimmy Hoffa-sponsored green cards-taking short-end taxi-fare splits to stay in America. Twelve moonlighters: stickup men, strikebreakers, pimps. 5% of the top-end money and whatever else he could scrounge-this gig packed potential.
Fulo pulled off the highway. Pete saw the spot where he whacked Anton Gretzler. They followed a bus convoy to the bait cribs-three miles from the Interstate easy.
Movie spotlights gave off this huge glow-extra-bright, like a premiere at Grauman’s Chinese. The cosmetic Sun Valley looked good: tidy little houses in a blacktop-paved clearing.
Teamsters were boozing at card tables-at least two hundred men squeezed into the walkways between houses. A gravel parking lot was crammed with cars and buses. A bar-b-que pit stood adjacent-check that spike-impaled steer twirling and basting.
Fulo parked close to the action. Jimmy said, “You two wait here.”
Pete got out and stretched. Hoffa zoomed into the crowd- toadies swarmed him right off the bat.
Fulo sharpened his machete on a pumice stone. He packed it in a scabbard strapped to the backseat.
Pete watched Jimmy work the crowd.
He showed off the pads. He gave little speeches and wolfed bar-b-que. He seized up and flushed around a blond Polack type.
Pete chain-smoked. Fulo played the cab radio: some Spanish-language pray-for-Jesus show.
A few buses took off. Two carloads of hookers pulled in- trashy Cuban babes chaperoned by off-duty state troopers.
Jimmy huckstered and hawked Sun Valley applications. Some Teamsters grabbed their cars and fishtailed off drunk and rowdy.
The Polack bagged a U-drive Chevy and burned gravel like he had a hot date somewhere.
Jimmy walked up fast-stubby legs chugging on overdrive. You didn’t need a fucking road map: the Polack was Roland Kirpaski.
They piled in to the tiger sled. Fulo gunned it. The radio geek cranked up a donation plea.
Lead-foot Fulo got the picture. Lead-foot Fulo went 0 to 60 inside six seconds.
Pete saw the Chevy’s taillights. Fulo floored the gas and rammed them. The car swerved off the road, clipped some trees and stalled dead.
Fulo brodied in close. His headlights strafed Kirpaski- stumbling through a clearing thick with marsh grass.
Jimmy got out and chased him. Jimmy waved Fulo’s machete. Kirpaski tripped and stood up flashing two fuck-you fingers.
Hoffa came in swinging. Kirpaski went down flailing wrist stumps gouting blood. Jimmy swung two-handed-scalp flaps flew.
The radio clown jabbered. Kirpaski convulsed head to toe. Jimmy wiped blood from his eyes and kept swinging.
Kemper called the car game Devil’s Advocate. It helped him keep his loyalties straight and honed his ability to project the right persona at the right time.
Bobby Kennedy’s distrust inspired the game. His southern accent slipped once-Bobby caught it instantly.
Kemper cruised South Miami. He began the game by marking who knew what.
Mr. Hoover knew everything. SA Boyd’s “retirement” was cloaked in FBI paperwork: if Bobby sought corroboration, he’d find it.
Claire knew everything. She’d never judge his motives or betray him.
Ward Littell knew of the Kennedy incursion. He most likely disapproved of it-Bobby’s crimebuster fervor deeply impressed him. Ward was also an ad hoc infiltration partner, compromised by the Darleen Shoftel wire job. The job shamed him-but gratitude for his THP transfer outweighed his guilt pangs. Ward did not know that Pete Bondurant killed Anton Gretzler; Ward did not know that Mr. Hoover condoned the murder. Bondurant terrified Ward-a sane response to Big Pete and the legend he inspired. The Bondurant matter should be kept from Ward at all cost.
Bobby knew that he was pimping for Jack-supplying him with the numbers of especially susceptible old flames.
Questions and answers next: practice for deflecting skepticism.
Kemper braked for a woman lugging groceries. His game snapped to the present tense.
Bobby thinks I’m chasing leads on Anton Gretzler. I’m really protecting Howard Hughes’ pet thug.
Q: You seem bent on crashing the Kennedy inner circle.
A: I can spot corners a mile off. Cozying up to Democrats doesn’t make me a Communist. Old Joe Kennedy’s as far right as Mr. Hoover.
Q: You “cozied up” to Jack rather fast.
A: If circumstances had been different, I could have been Jack.
Kemper checked his notebook.
He had to go by Tiger Kab. He had to go to Sun Valley and show mug shots to the witness who saw the “big man” avert his face off the Interstate.
He’d show him old mug shots-bad current Bondurant likenesses. He’d discourage a confirmation: you didn’t really see this man, did you?
A tiger-striped taxi swerved in front of him. He saw a tigerstriped hut down the block.
Kemper pulled up and parked across the street. Some curbside loungers smelled COP and dispersed.
He walked into the hut. He laughed-the wallpaper was freshflocked tiger-striped velveteen.
Four tiger-shirted Cubans stood up and circled him. They wore their shirttails out to cover waistband bulges.
Kemper pulled his mug shots out. The tiger men circled in tighter. A man pulled out a stiletto and scratched his neck with the blade.
The other tiger men laughed. Kemper braced the closest one. “Have you seen him?”
The man passed the mug strip around. Every man flashed recognition and said “No.”
Kemper grabbed the strip. He saw a white man on the sidewalk checking his car out.
The knife man sidled up close. The other tiger men giggled. The knife man twirled his blade right upside the gringo’s eyes.
Kemper judo-chopped him. Kemper snapped his knees with a sidekick. The man hit the floor prone and dropped his shiv.
Kemper picked it up. The tiger men backed off en masse. Kernper stepped on the knife man’s knife hand and slammed the blade through it.
The knife man screamed. The other tiger men gasped and tittered. Kemper exited with a tight little bow.
o o o
He drove out I-95 to Sun Valley. A gray sedan stuck close behind him. He changed lanes, dawdled and accelerated-the car followed from a classic tail distance.
Kemper eased down an off-ramp. A hicktown main street ran perpendicular to it-just four gas stations and a church. He pulled into a Texaco and parked.
He walked to the men’s room. He saw the tail car idle up to the pumps. The white man dawdling by Tiger Kab got out and looked around.
Kemper shut the door and pulled his piece. The room was smelly and filthy.
He counted seconds off his watch. He heard foot scuffs at fiftyone.
The man nudged the door open. Kemper yanked him in and pinned him to the walL
He was fortyish, sandy-haired, and slender. Kemper patsearched him from the ankles up.
No badge, no gun, no leatherette ID holder.
The man didn’t blink. The man ignored the revolver in his face.
The man said, “My name is John Stanton. I’m a representative of a U.S. Government agency, and I want to talk to you.”
Stanton said, “Cuba.”
Snitch candidate at work: “Jewboy Lenny” Sands collecting jukebox cash.
Littell tailed him. They hit six Hyde Park taverns in an hour- Lenny worked fast.
Lenny kibitzed. Lenny cracked jokes. Lenny passed out Johnnie Walker Red Label miniatures. Lenny told the story of Come-San-Chin, the Chinese cocksucker-and bagged his coin receipts inside seven minutes.
Lenny was a deficient tail-spotter. Lenny had unique THP stats: lounge entertainer/Cuban bagman/Mob mascot.
Lenny pulled up to the Tillerman’s Lounge. Littell parked and walked in thirty seconds behind him.
The place was overheated. A bar mirror tossed his reflection back: lumberjack coat, chinos, work boots.
He still looked like a college professor.
Teamster regalia lined the walls. A framed glossy stood out: Jimmy Hoffa and Frank Sinatra holding up trophy fish.
Workingmen walked through a hot buffet line. Lenny sat at a back table, with a stocky man wolfmg corned beef.
Littell ID’d him: Jacob Rubenstein/AKA Jack Ruby.
Lenny brought his coin sacks. Ruby brought a suitcase. It was a probable vending cash transfer.
There were no empty tables adjoining them.
Men stood at the bar drinking lunch: rye shots and beer chasers. Littell signaled for the same-nobody laughed or snickered.
The barman served him and took his money. He downed his lunch quick-just like his Teamster brothers.
The rye made him sweat; the beer gave him goose bumps. The combination tamped down his nerves.
He’d had one THP Squad meeting. The men seemed to resent him-Mr. Hoover slotted him in personally. An agent named Court Meade came on friendly; the others welcomed him with nods and perfunctory handshakes.
He had three days in as a THP agent. Including three shifts at the bug post, studying Chi-mob voices.
The barman cruised by. Littell raised two fingers-the same way his Teamster brothers called for refills.
Sands and Ruby kept talking. There was no table space near them-he couldn’t get close enough to listen.
He drank and paid up. The rye went straight to his head.
Drinking on duty was a Bureau infraction. Not strictly illegal- like wiring fuck pads to entrap politicians.
The agent working the Shoftel post was probably swamped-he hadn’t sent a single tape out yet. Mr. Hoover’s Kennedy hate seemed insanely misguided.
Robert Kennedy seemed heroic. Bobby’s kindness to Roland Kirpaski seemed pure and genuine.
A table opened up. Littell walked through the lunch line and grabbed it. Lenny and Rubenstein/Ruby were less than three feet away.
Ruby was talking. Food dribbled down his bib.
“Heshie always thinks he’s got cancer or some farkakte disease. With Hesh a pimple’s always a malignant tumor.”
Lenny picked at a sandwich. “Heshie’s a class guy. When I played the Stardust Lounge in ‘54 he came every night. Heshie always preferred lounge acts to the main-room guys. Jesus Christ and the Apostles could be playing the big room at the Dunes, and Heshie’d be over at some slot palace checking out some guinea crooner ‘cause his cousin’s a made guy.”
Ruby said, “Heshie loves blow jobs. He gets blow jobs exclusively, ‘cause he says it’s good for his prostate. He told me he hasn’t dipped the schnitzel since he was with the Purples back in the ‘30s and some shiksa tried to schlam him with a paternity suit. Heshie told me he’s had over ten thousand blow jobs. He likes to watch ‘The Lawrence Welk Show’ while he gets blown. He’s got nine doctors for all these diseases he thinks he’s got, and all the nurses blow him. That’s how he knows it’s good for his prostate.”
“Heshie” was most likely Herschel Meyer Ryskind: “active in the Gulf Coast heroin trade.”
Lenny said, “Jack, I hate to stiff you with all these coins, but I didn’t have time to go to the bank. Sam was very specific. He said you were making rounds and only had limited time. I’m glad we had time to nosh, though, ‘cause I always enjoy watching you eat.”
Ruby wiped his bib. “I’m worse when the food’s better. There’s a deli in Big D that’s to die for. Here, my shirt’s just spritzed. At that deli it’s spray-painted.”
“Who’s the money for?”
“Batista and the Beard. Santo and Sam are hedging their bets political-wise. I’m flying down next week.”
Lenny pushed his plate aside. “I’ve got this new routine where Castro comes to the States and gets a job as a beatnik poet. He’s smoking maryjane and talking like a shvartze.”
“You’re big-room talent, Lenny. I’ve always said so.”
“Keep saying it, Jack. If you keep saying it, somebody might hear you.”
Ruby stood up. “Hey, you never know.”
“That’s right, you never do. Shalom, Jack. It’s always a pleasure watching you eat.”
Ruby walked out with his suitcase. Jewboy Lenny lit a cigarette and rolled his eyes up to God.
Lounge acts. Blow jobs. Rye and beer for lunch.
Littell walked back to his car lightheaded.
o o o
Lenny left twenty minutes later. Littell tailed him to Lake Shore Drive northbound.
Whitecap spray lit the windshield-booming wind had the lake churning. Littell cranked up his heater-too hot replaced too cold.
The liquor left him cotton-mouthed and just a tad woozy. The road kept dipping-just a little.
Lenny signaled to exit. Littell leaped lanes and eased up behind him. They swung down into the Gold Coast-too upscale to be Vendo-King turf.
Lenny turned west on Rush Street. Littell saw high-toned cocktail spots up ahead: brownstone fronts and low-key neon signs.
Lenny parked and walked into Hernando’s Hideaway. Littell cruised by extra-slow.
The door swung back. He saw two men kissing-a little half-second teaser blip.
Littell double-parked and switched jackets: lumberjack to blue blazer. The chinos and boots had to stay.
He walked in bucking wind. The place was dark and midafternoon quiet. The decor was discreet: all polished wood and forest-green leather.
A banquette section was roped off. Two duos sat at opposite ends of the bar: older men, Lenny and a college boy.
Littell took a seat between them. The bartender ignored him.
Lenny was talking. His inflections were polished now-devoid of growl and Yiddish patter.
“Larry, you should have seen this wretched man eat.”
The bartender came over. Littell said, “Rye and beer.” Heads turned his way.
The barman poured a shot. Littell downed it and coughed. The barman said, “My, aren’t we thirsty!”
Littell reached for his wallet. His ID holder popped out and landed on the bar badge-up.
He grabbed it and threw some change down. The barman said, “Don’t we want our beer?”
o o o
Littell drove to the office and typed up a tail report. He chewed a roll of Clorets to kill his liquor breath.
He omitted mention of his beverage intake and his blunder at Hernando’s Hideaway. He stressed the basic gist: that Lenny Sands might have a secret homosexual life. This might prove to be a recruitment wedge: he was obviously hiding that life from his Mob associates.
Lenny never noticed him. So far, his tail stood uncompromised.
Court Meade rapped on his cubicle screen. “You’ve got a longdistance call, Ward. A man named Boyd in Miami on line 2.”
Littell picked up. “Kemper, hi. What are you doing back in Florida?”
“Working at cross-purposes for Bobby and Mr. Hoover, but don’t tell anyone.”
“Are you getting results?”
“Well, people keep approaching me, and Bobby’s witnesses keep disappearing, so I’d have to call it a toss-up. Ward…”
“You need a favor.”
Littell leaned his chair back. “I’m listening.”
Boyd said, “Helen’s flying into Chicago tonight. United flight 84, New Orleans to Midway. She gets in at 5:10. Will you pick her up and take her to her hotel?”
“Of course. And I’ll take her to dinner, too. Jesus, that’s lastminute but great.”
Boyd laughed. “That’s our Helen, an impetuous traveler. Ward, do you remember that man Roland Kirpaski?”
“Kemper, I saw him three days ago.”
“Yes, you did. In any event, he’s allegedly down in Florida, but I can’t seem to find him. He was supposed to call Bobby and report on Hoffa’s Sun Valley scheme, but he hasn’t called, and he left his hotel last night and hasn’t returned.”
“Do you want me to go by his house and talk to his wife?”
“Yes, if you wouldn’t mind. If you get anything pertinent, leave a coded message with Communications in D.C. I haven’t found a hotel here yet, but I’ll check in with them to see if you’ve called.”
“What’s the address?”
“It’s 818 South Wabash. Roland’s probably off on a toot with some bimbo, but it can’t hurt to see if he’s called home. And Ward?”
“I know. I’ll remember who you’re working for and play it close to the vest.”
“You’re welcome. And by the way, I saw a man today who’s as good a role player as you are.”
Boyd said, “That’s impossible.”
o o o
Mary Kirpaski rushed him inside. The house was overfurnished and way overheated.
Littell took off his overcoat. The woman almost pushed him into the kitchen.
“Roland always calls home every night. He said if he didn’t call on this trip, I should cooperate with the authorities and show them his notebook.”
Littell smelled cabbage and boiled meat. “I’m not with the McClellan Committee, Mrs. Kirpaski. I haven’t really worked with your husband.”
“But you know Mr. Boyd and Mr. Kennedy.”
“I know Mr. Boyd. He’s the one who asked me to check on you.”
She’d chewed her nails bloody. Her lipstick was applied way off-center.
“Roland didn’t call last night. He kept this notebook on Mr. Hoffa’s doings, and he didn’t take it to Washington because he wanted to talk to Mr. Kennedy before he agreed to testify.”
“It’s a list of Mr. Hoffa’s Chicago phone calls, with dates and everything like that. Roland said he stole the phone bills of some of Mr. Hoffa’s friends because Mr. Hoffa was afraid to call long distance from his hotel, because he thought his phone might be tapped.”
She grabbed a binder off the breakfast table. “Roland would be so mad if I didn’t show it to the authorities.”
Littell opened the binder. Page 1 listed names and phone numbers, neatly arranged in columns.
Mary Kirpaski crowded up to him. “Roland called up the phone companies in all the different cities and found out who the numbers belonged to. I think he impersonated policemen or something like that.”
Littell flipped pages front to back. Roland Kirpaski printed legibly and neatly.
Several “calls received” names were familiar: Sam Giancana, Carlos Marcello, Anthony Iannone, Santo Trafficante Jr. One name was familiar and scary: Peter Bondurant, 949 Mapleton Drive, Los Angeles.
Hoffa called Big Pete three times recently: 11/25/58, 12/1/58, 12/2/58.
Bondurant snapped manacles bare-handed. He allegedly killed people for ten thousand dollars and plane fare.
Mary Kirpaski was fondling rosary beads. She smelled like Vicks VapoRub and cigarettes.
“Ma’am, could I use the phone?”
She pointed to a wall extension. Littell pulled the cord to the far end of the kitchen.
She left him alone. Littell heard a radio snap on one room over.
He dialed the long-distance operator. She put him through to the security desk at L.A. International Airport.
A man answered. “Sergeant Donaldson, may I help you?”
“This is Special Agent Littell, Chicago FBI. I need an expedite on some reservation information.”
“Yes, sir. Tell me what you need.”
“I need you to query the airlines that fly Los Angeles to Miami round-thp. I’m looking for reservations going out on either December the eighth, ninth or tenth, and returning any time after that. I’m looking for a reservation under the name Peter Bondurant, spelled B-O-N-D-U-R-A-N-T, or reservations charged to the Hughes Tool Company or Hughes Aircraft. If you turn up positive on any of that, and the reservation is in a man’s name, I need a physical description of the man either picking up his ticket or boarding the airplane.”
“Sir, that last part is needle-in-a-haystack stuff.”
“I don’t think so. My suspect is a male Caucasian in his late thirties, and he’s about six-foot-five and very powerfully built. If you see him, you don’t forget him.”
“I copy. Do you want me to call you back?”
“I’ll hold. If you don’t get me anything in ten minutes, come back on the line and take my number.”
“Yes, sir. You hold now. I’ll get right on this.”
Littell held the line. An image held him: Big Pete Bondurant crucified. The kitchen cut through it: cramped, hot, saints’ days marked on a parish calendar-
Eight minutes crawled by. The sergeant came back on the line, excited.
“Sir, we hit. I didn’t think we would, but we did.”
Littell got out his notebook. “Tell me.”
“American Airlines flight 104, Los Angeles to Miami. It left L.A. at 8:00 a.m. yesterday, December 10th, and arrived in Miami at 4:10 p.m. The reservation was made under the name Thomas Peterson and was charged to Hughes Aircraft. I talked to the agent who issued the ticket, and she remembered that man you described. You were right, you don’t forget-”
“Is there a return reservation?”
“Yes, sir. American flight 55. It arrives in Los Angeles at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.”
Littell felt dizzy. He cracked a window for some alt
“Sir, are you there?”
Littell cut the man off and dialed 0. A cold breeze flooded the kitchen.
“I need Washington, D.C. The number is KL4-8801.”
“Yes, sir, just one minute.”
The call went through fast. A man said, “Communications, Special Agent Reynolds.”
“This is Special Agent Littell in Chicago. I need to transmit a message to SA Kemper Boyd in Miami.”
“Is he with the Miami office?”
“No, he’s on a detached assignment. I need you to transmit the message to the Miami SAC and have him locate SA Boyd. I think it’s a matter of a hotel check, and if it wasn’t so urgent, I’d do it myself.”
“This is irregular, but I don’t see why we can’t do it. What’s your message?”
Littell spoke slowly. “Have circumstantial and suppositional- underline those two words-evidence that J.H. hired our old oversized French confrere to eliminate Committee witness R.K. Our confrere leaves Miami late tonight, American flight 55. Call me in Chicago for details. Urge that you inform Robert K. immediately. Sign it W.J.L.”
The agent repeated the message. Littell heard Mary Kirpaski sobbing just outside the kitchen door.
o o o
Helen’s flight was late. Littell waited in a cocktail lounge near the gate.
He rechecked the phone call list. His instinct held firm: Pete Bondurant killed Roland Kirpaski.
Kemper mentioned a dead witness named Gretzler. If he could connect the man to Bondurant, TWO murder charges might fly.
Littell sipped rye and beer. He kept checking the back wall mirror to gauge his appearance.
His work clothes looked wrong. His glasses and thinning hair didn’t jibe with them.
The rye burned; the beer tickled. Two men walked up to his table and grabbed him.
They jerked him upright. They clamped down on his elbows. They steered him back to an enclosed phone bank.
It was swift and sure-no civilian patrons caught it.
The men pinned his arms back. Chick Leahy stepped out of a shadow and got right up in his face.
Littell felt his knees go. The men propped him up on his toes.
Leahy said, “Your message to Kemper Boyd was intercepted. You could have violated his cover on the incursion. Mr. Hoover does not want to see Robert Kennedy aided, and Peter Bondurant is a valued colleague of Howard Hughes, who is a great friend of Mr. Hoover and the Bureau. Do you know what fully coded messages are, Mr. Littell?”
Littell blinked. His glasses fell off. Everything went blurry.
Leahy jabbed his chest, hard. “You’re off the THP and back on the Red Squad as of now. And I strongly urge you not to protest.”
One man grabbed his notebook. The other man said, “You reek of liquor.”
They elbowed him aside and walked out. The whole thing took thirty seconds.
His arms hurt. His glasses were scratched and dented. He couldn’t quite breathe or stay balanced on his feet.
He swerved back to his table. He choked down rye and beer and leveled his shakes out.
His glasses fit crooked. He checked out his new mirror image: the world’s most ineffectual workingman.
An intercom boomed, “United flight 84 from New Orleans is now arriving.”
Littell finished his drinks and chased them with two Clorets. He walked over to the gate and bucked passengers up to the jetway.
Helen saw him and dropped her bags. Her hug almost knocked him down.
People stepped around them. Littell said, “Hey, let me see you.”
Helen looked up. Her head grazed his chin-she’d grown tall.
“You look wonderful.”
“It’s Max Factor number-four blush. It does wonders for my scars.”
“Very funny. And what are you now, a lumberjack?”
“I was. For a few days, at least.”
“Susan says Mr. Hoover’s finally letting you chase gangsters.”
A man kicked Helen’s garment bag and glared at them. Littell said, “Come on, I’ll buy you dinner.”
o o o
They had steaks at the Stockyard Inn. Helen talked a blue streak and got tipsy on red wine.
She’d gone from coltish to rangy; her face had settled in strong. She’d quit smoking-she said she knew it was fake sophistication.
She always wore her hair in a bun to flaunt her scars. She wore it down now-it rendered her disfigurement matter-of-fact.
A waiter pushed the dessert cart by. Helen ordered pecan pie; Littell ordered brandy.
“Ward, you’re letting me do all the talking.”
“I was waiting to summarize.”
“You at age twenty-one.”
Helen groaned. “I was starting to feel mature.”
Littell smiled. “I was going to say that you’ve become poised, but not at the expense of your exuberance. You used to trip over your words when you wanted to make a point, but now you think before you talk.”
“Now people just trip over my luggage when I’m excited about meeting a man.”
“A man? You mean a friend twenty-four years your senior who watched you grow up?”
She touched his hands. “A man. I had a professor at Tulane who said that things change with old friends and students and teachers, so what’s a quarter of a century here and there?”
“You’re saying he was twenty-five years older than you?”
Helen laughed. “Twenty-six. He was trying to minimize things to make them seem less embarrassing.”
“You’re saying you had an affair with him?”
“Yes. And I’m saying it wasn’t lurid and pathetic, but going out with undergrad boys who thought I’d be easy because I was scarred up was.”
Littell said, “Jesus Christ.”
Helen waved her fork at him. “Now I know you’re upset, because some part of you is still a Jesuit seminarian, and you only invoke our Savior’s name when you’re flustered.”
Littell sipped brandy. “I was going to say, ‘Jesus Christ, have Kemper and I ruined you for young men your own age?’ Are you going to spend your youth chasing middle-aged men?”
“You should hear Susan and Claire and I talk.”
“You mean my daughter and her best friends swear like longshoremen?”
“No, but we’ve been discussing men in general and you and Kemper in specific for years, in case you’ve felt your ears burning.
“I can understand Kemper. He’s handsome and dangerous.”
“Yes, and he’s heroic. But he’s a tomcat, and even Claire knows it.”
Helen squeezed his hands. He felt his pulse racing. He got this Jesus Fucking Christ crazy idea.
Littell took off his glasses. “I’m not so sure Kemper’s heroic. I think heroes are truly passionate and generous.”
“That sounds like an epigram.”
“It is. Senator John F. Kennedy said it.”
“Are you enamored of him? Isn’t he some terrible liberal?”
“I’m enamored of his brother Robert, who is truly heroic.”
Helen pinched herself. “This is the strangest conversation to be having with an old family friend who’s known me since before my father died.”
That Idea-Jesus Christ.
Littell said, “I’ll be heroic for you.”
Helen said, “We can’t let this be pathetic.”
o o o
He drove her to her hotel and carried her bags upstairs. Helen kissed him goodbye on the lips. His glasses snagged in her hair and fell to the floor.
Littell drove back to Midway and caught a 2:00 a.m. flight to Los Angeles. A stewardess gawked at his ticket: his return flight left an hour after they landed.
One last brandy let him sleep. He woke up woozy just as the plane touched down.
He made it with fourteen minutes to spare. Flight 55 from Miami was landing at gate 9, on time.
Littell badgered a guard and got permission to walk out on the tarmac. A wicked hangover headache started kicking in.
Baggage men cruised by and checked him out. He looked like a middle-aged bum who’d slept in his clothes.
The airplane landed. A ground crew pushed passenger steps out.
Bondurant exited up front. Jimmy Hoffa flew his killers firstclass.
Littell walked up to him. His chest hammered and his legs went numb. His voice fluttered and broke.
“Someday I’m going to punish you. For Kirpaski and everything else.”
(Los Angeles, 12/14/58)
Freddy left a note under the wiper blades:
“I’m getting some lunch. Wait for me.”
Pete climbed in the back of the van. Freddy had a cooling system rigged: a fan aimed at a big bowl of ice cubes.
Tape spun. Lights flashed. Graph needles twitched. The place was like the cockpit of a low-rent spaceship.
Pete cracked a side window for some air. A Fed type walked by-probably listening-post personnel.
Air blew in-Santa Ana hot.
Pete dropped an ice cube down his pants and laughed falsetto. He sounded just like SA Ward J. Littell.
Littell squeaked his warning. Littell smelled like stale booze and sweat. Littell had jackshit for evidence.
He could have told him:
I whacked Anton Gretzler, but Hoffa killed Kirpaski. I stuffed shotgun shells in his mouth and glued his lips shut. We torched Roland and his car at a refuse dump. Double-aught buckshot blew his head up-you’ll never get a dental-work ID.
Littell doesn’t know that Jack’s big mouth killed Roland Kirpaski. The listening-post Fed might be sending him tapes-but Littell hasn’t put the scenario together.
Freddy climbed in the van. He adjusted some graph gizmo and spritzed grief straight off.
“That Fed that just walked by keeps checking out the van. I’m parked here at all fucking hours, and all he needs to do is sweep me with a fucking Geiger counter to figure out I’m doing the same fucking thing he is. I can’t park around the fucking block ‘cause I’ll lose the fucking signal. I need a fucking house around here to work from, ‘cause then I can set up some equipment that’s fucking powerful enough to pick up from the Shoftel babe’s pad, but that fucking Fed bagged the last fucking For Rent sign in the fucking neighborhood, and the fucking two hundred a day you and Jimmy are paying me ain’t enough to make up for the fucking risks I’m taking.”
Pete snagged an ice cube and squeezed it into shards. “Are you finished?”
“No. I’ve also got a fucking boil on my fucking ass from sleeping on the fucking floor here.”
Pete popped a few knuckles. “Wrap it up.”
“I need some good money. I need it for fucking hazardous-duty pay, and to upgrade this operation with. Get me some good money and I’ll kick a nice piece of it back to you.”
“I’ll talk to Mr. Hughes and see what I can do.”
o o o
Howard Hughes got his dope from a nigger drag queen named Peaches. Pete found the drop pad cleaned out-the queen next door said Peaches went up on a sodomy bounce.
He drove to a supermarket, bought a box of Rice Krispies and pinned the toy badge inside to his shirt front. He called Karen Hiltscher at R amp;I and glommed some prime information: the fry cook at Scrivner’s Drive-In sold goofballs and might be extortable. She described him: white, skinny, acne scars and Nazi tattoos.
Pete drove to Scrivner’s. The kitchen door was open; the geek was at the deep fryer, dipping spuds.
The geek saw him.
The geek said, “That badge is a fake.”
The geek looked at the freezer-a sure sign that he stored his shit there.
Pete said, “How do you want to do this?”
The geek pulled a knife. Pete kicked him in the balls and deepfried his knife hand. Six seconds only-pill heists didn’t rate total mayhem.
The geek screamed. Street noise leveled out the sound. Pete shoved a sandwich in his mouth to muzzle him.
His dope stash was in the freezer next to the ice cream.
o o o
The hotel manager gave Mr. Hughes a Christmas tree. It was fully flocked and decorated-a bellboy left it outside the bungalow.
Pete carried it into the bedroom and plugged it in. Sparkly lights blinked and twinkled.
Hughes blipped off a Webster Webfoot cartoon. “What is this? And why are you carrying a tape recorder?”
Pete dug through his pockets and tossed pill vials under the tree. “Ho, ho, fucking ho. It’s Christmas ten days early. Codeine and Dilaudid, ho, ho.”
Hughes scrunched himself up on his pillows. “Well… I’m delighted. But aren’t you supposed to be auditioning stringers for Hush-Hush?”
Pete yanked the tree cord and plugged in the tape rig. “Do you still hate Senator John F. Kennedy, Boss?”
“I certainly do. His father screwed me on business deals going back to 1927.”
Pete brushed pine needles off his shirt. “I think we’ve got the means to juke him pretty good in Hush-Hush, if you’ve got the money to keep a certain operation going.”
“I’ve got the money to buy the North American continent, and if you don’t quit leading me on I’ll put you on a slow boat to the Belgian Congo!”
Pete pressed the Play button. Senator Jack and Darleen Shoftel boned and groaned. Howard Hughes clutched his bedsheets, dead ecstatic.
The fuck crescendoed and diminuendoed. Jack K. said, “My goddamn back gave out.”
Darleen said, “It was goooood. Short and sweet’s the best.”
Pete pressed Stop. Howard Hughes twitched and trembled.
“We can have Hush-Hush print this up if we’re careful, Boss. But we’ve got to watch the wording real close.”
“Where… did… you… get that?”
“The girl’s a prostitute. The FBI had her place wired, and Freddy Turentine hooked up on top of it. So we can’t print anything that would tip the Feds off. We can’t print anything that only could have come from the bug.”
Hughes plucked at his sheets. “Yes, I’ll finance your ‘operation.’ Have Gail Hendee write the story up-something like ‘Priapic Senator Dallies with Hollywood Playgirl.’ We’ve got an issue coming out the day after tomorrow, so if Gail writes it today and gets it to the office by this evening, it can make that next issue. Have Gail write it today. The Kennedy family will ignore it, but the legitimate newspapers and wire services might come to us asking for details to enlarge the story, which of course we will give them.”
Big Howard beamed kid-at-Christmas-like. Pete plugged his tree back in.
o o o
Gail needed convincing. Pete sat her down on the watchdog-house veranda and laid out a line of sweet talk.
“Kennedy’s a geek. He had you meet him on his goddamned honeymoon. He dropped you two weeks later, and kissed you off with a goddamn mink coat.”
Gail smiled. “He was nice, though. He never said, ‘Honey, let’s get a divorce racket going.’”
“When your old man’s worth a hundred million dollars, you don’t have to do things like that.”
Gail sighed. “You win, like always. And you know why I haven’t been wearing that mink lately?”
“I gave it to Mrs. Walter P. Kinnard. You took a big cut of her alimony, and I figured she could use some cheering up.”
o o o
Twenty-four hours zipped by.
Hughes kicked loose thirty grand. Pete pocketed fifteen. If the Hush-Hush smear exposed the bug, he’d be covered financially.
Freddy bought a long-range transceiver and started looking for a house.
That Fed kept eyeballing his van. Jack K. didn’t call or drop by. Freddy figured Darleen was only worth one poke.
Pete stuck by the watchdog-house phone. Geeks kept interrupting his daydreams.
Two Hush-Hush stringer prospects called: ex-vice cops hipped on Hollywood lowdown. They flunked his impromptu pop quiz: Who’s Ava Gardner fucking?
He made some calls out-and planted a new Hughes double at the Beverly Hilton. Karen Hiltscher recommended the man: her scabby wino father-in-law. Pops said he’d work for three hots and a cot. Pete booked the Presidential Suite and placed a standing room-service order: T-bird and cheeseburgers for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Jimmy Hoffa called. He said, The Hush-Hush thing sounds good, but I want MORE! Pete neglected to share his basic opinion: Jack and Darleen were just a two-minute mattress ride.
He kept thinking about Miami. The cabstand, colorful spics, tropical sunshine.
Miami felt like adventure. Miami felt like money.
o o o
He woke up early publication morning. Gail was gone-she’d taken to avoiding him with aimless drives to the beach.
Pete walked outside. His first-press-run copy was stuffed in the mailbox, per instructions.
Dig the cover lines: “Tomcat Senator Likes Catnip! Ask Nipped-At L.A. Kittens!” Dig the illustration: John Kennedy’s face on a cartoon cat’s body, the tail wrapped around a blonde in a bikini.
He flipped to the piece. Gail used the pen name Peerless Politicopundit.
U.S. Senate cloakroom wags say he’s far from being the most dedicatedly demonic Democrat dallier. No, Senator L.B. (Lover Boy?) Johnson probably tops political polls in that department, with Florida’s George F ‘Pass the Smackeroos’ Smathers coming in second. No, Senator John F. Kennedy is rather a tenuously tumescent tomcat, with a tantalizingly trenchant taste for those finely-furred and felicitous felines who find him fantastically fetching themselves!
Pete skimmed the rest. Gail played it half-assed-the smear wasn’t vicious enough. Jack Kennedy ogled women and “bewitched, bothered and bewildered” them with “baubles, bangles, beads” and “brilliant Boston beatitudes.” No heavy-duty skank; no implied fucking; no snide jabs at Two-Minute-Man Jack.
Perk, perk, perk-his all-star feelers started twitching-
Pete drove downtown and cruised by the Hush-Hush warehouse. Things looked absolutely first-glance SOP.
Men were wheeling bound stacks out on dollies. Men were loading pallets. A line of newsstand trucks were backed up to the dock.
Two unmarked prowl cars were parked down the street. That ice cream wagon idling by looked dicey-the driver was talking into a hand mike.
Pete circled the block. The fuzz multiplied: four unmarkeds at the curb and two black amp; whites around the corner.
He circled again. The shit hit the fan and sprayed out in all directions.
Four units were jammed up to the loading dock-running full lights and siren.
Plainclothesmen piled out. A bluesuit cordon hit the warehouse with cargo hooks.
An LAPD van blocked the distribution trucks off. Swampers dropped their loads and threw their hands up.
It was fucking scandal-rag chaos. It was fucking skank-sheet Armageddon-
o o o
Pete drove to the Beverly Hills Hotel. A Big Ugly Picture formed: somebody ratted off the Kennedy issue.
He parked and ran by the pooi. He saw a big crowd outside the Hughes bungalow.
They were peeping in Big Howard’s bedroom window. They looked like fucking ghouls at an accident scene.
He ran up and pushed to the front. Billy Eckstine nudged him. “Hey, check this out.”
The window was open. Two men were jacking up Mr. Hughes-double-teaming him with Big Verbal Grief.
Robert Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy Sr.
Hughes was swaddled in bed quilts. Bobby was waving a hypo. Old Joe was raging.
“…You’re a pathetic lecher and a narcotics addict. I am two seconds away from exposing you to the whole wide world, and if you think I’m bluffing please note that I opened the window to let your hotel neighbors have a sneak preview of what the whole world will know if you ever allow your filthy scandal rag to write another word about my family.”
Hughes cringed. His head banged the wall and sent a picture frame toppling.
Some all-star voyeurs dug the show: Billy, Mickey Cohen, some faggot Mouseketeer sporting a jumbo mouse-ear beanie.
Howard Hughes whimpered. Howard Hughes said, “Please don’t hurt me.”
o o o
Pete drove to the Shoftel pad. The Big Ugly Picture expanded: either Gail snitched or the Feds exposed the piggyback.
He pulled up behind Freddy’s van. Freddy was down on his knees in the street-cuffed to the front-bumper housing.
Pete ran over. Freddy yanked at his shackle chain and tried to stand up.
He’d scraped his wrist bloody. He’d ripped his knees raw crawling on the pavement.
Pete knelt down in front of him. “What happened? Quit grabbing at that and look at me.”
Freddy did some wrist contortions. Pete slapped him. Freddy snapped to and focused in half-alert.
He said, ‘The listening-post guy sent his transcripts to some Fed in Chicago and told him he was hinked on my van. Pete, this thing plays wrong to me. There’s just one FBI guy working single-o, like he went off half-cocked or some-”
Pete ran across the lawn and bolted the porch. Darleen Shoftel ducked out of his way, snapped a high heel and fell on her ass.
The Big and Ugly Final Picture:
Spackle-coated mikes on the floor. Two tap-gutted phones belly-up on an end table.
And SA Ward J. Littell, standing there in an off-the-rack blue suit.
It was a stalemate. You don’t whack FBI men impromptu.
Pete walked up to him. He said, “This is a bullshit roust, or you wouldn’t be here alone.”
Littell just stood there. His glasses slipped down his nose.
“You keep flying out here to bother me. Next time’s the last time.”
Littell said, “I’ve put it together.” The words came out all quivery.
“Kemper Boyd told me he had an errand at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He talked to you there, and you got suspicious and tailed him. You saw us black-bag this place and got your friend to put in auxiliary wires. Senator Kennedy told Miss Shoftel about Roland Kirpaski testifying, and you heard it and talked Jimmy Hoffa into giving you the contract.”
Booze guts. This skinny stringbean cop with 8:00 a.m. liquor breath.
“You’ve got no proof, and Mr. Hoover doesn’t care.”
“You’re right. I can’t arrest you and Turentine.”
Pete smiled. “I’ll bet Mr. Hoover liked the tapes. I’ll bet he won’t be too pleased that you blew this operation.”
Littell slapped his face. Littell said, “That’s for the blood on John Kennedy’s hands.”
The slap was weak. Most women slapped harder.
o o o
He knew she’d leave a note. He found it on their bed, next to her house keys.
I know you figured out I soft-soaped the article. When the editor didn’t question it I realized it wasn’t enough and called Bob Kennedy. He said he would probably be able to pull strings and get the issue pulled. Jack is sort of callous in some ways, but he doesn’t deserve what you planned. I don’t want to be with you any more. Please don’t try to find me.
She left the clothes he bought her. Pete dumped them out in the street and watched cars drive over them.
(Washington, D.C., 12/18/58)
“To say that I am furious belittles the concept of fury. To say that I consider your actions outrageous demeans the notion of outrage.”
Mr. Hoover paused. The pillow on his chair made him tower over two tall men.
Kemper looked at Littell. They sat flush in front of Hoover’s desk.
Littell said, “I understand your position, Sir.”
Hoover patted his lips with a handkerchief. “I do not believe you. And I do not rate the value of objective awareness nearly as high as I rate the virtue of loyalty.”
Littell said, “I acted impetuously, Sir. I apologize for that.”
“‘Impetuous’ describes your attempt to contact Mr. Boyd and foist your preposterous Bondurant suspicions on him and Robert Kennedy. ‘Duplicitous’ and ‘treacherous’ describe your unauthorized flight to Los Angeles to uproot an official Bureau operalion.”
“I considered Bondurant a murder suspect, Sir. I thought that he had implemented a piggyback on the surveillance equipment that Mr. Boyd and I had installed, and I was correct.”
Hoover said nothing. Kemper knew he’d let the silence build.
The operation blew from two flanks. Bondurant’s girlfriend tipped Bobby to a smear piece; Ward logicked out the Kirpaski hit himself. That logic held a certain validity: Pete was in Miami concurrent with Roland.
Hoover fondled a paperweight. “Is murder a Federal offense, Mr. Littell?”
“Are Robert Kennedy and the McClellan Committee direct rivals of the Bureau?”
“I don’t consider them that, Sir.”
“Then you are a confused and naive man, which your recent actions more than confirm.”
Littell sat perfectly still. Kemper saw his pulse hammer his shirt front.
Hoover folded his hands. “January 16, 1961, marks the twentieth anniversary of your Bureau appointment. You are to retire on that day. You are to work at the Chicago office until then. You are to remain on the CPUSA Surveillance Squad until the day you retire.”
Littell said, “Yes, Sir.”
Hoover stood up. Kemper stood a beat later, per protocol. Littell stood up too fast-his chair teetered.
“You owe your continued career and pension to Mr. Boyd, who was most persuasive in convincing me to be lenient. I expect you to repay my generosity by promising to maintain absolute silence regarding Mr. Boyd’s McClellan Committee and Kennedy family incursion. Do you promise that, Mr. Littell?”
“Yes, Sir. I do.”
Hoover walked out.
Kemper put his drawl on. “You can breathe now, son.”
o o o
The Mayflower bar featured wraparound banquettes. Kemper sat Littell down and thawed him out with a double scotch-on-the-rocks.
They bucked sleet walking over-there was no chance to talk. Ward took the thrashing better than he expected.
Kemper said, “Any regrets?”
“Not really. I was going to retire at twenty years, and the THP is a half-measure at best.”
“Are you rationalizing?”
“I don’t think so. I’ve had a…”
“Finish the thought. Don’t let me explicate for you.”
“Well… I’ve had a… taste of something very dangerous and good.”
“And you like it.”
“Yes. It’s almost as if I’ve touched a new world.”
Kemper stirred his martini. “Do you know why Mr. Hoover allowed you to remain with the Bureau?”
“I convinced him that you were volatile, irrational and addicted to taking heedless risks. The element of truth in that convinced him that you were better off inside the barn pissing out than outside the barn pissing in. He wanted me there to buttress the intimidation, and if he had signaled me I would have laced into you myself.”
Littell smiled. “Kemper, you’re leading me. You’re like an attorney drawing out a witness.”
“Yes, and you’re a provocative witness. Now, let me ask you a question. What do you think Pete Bondurant has planned for you?”
“Your postretirement death, more likely. He murdered his own brother, Ward. And his parents killed themselves when they found out. It’s a Bondurant rumor that I’ve chosen to believe.”
Littell said, “Jesus Christ.”
He was awed. It was a perfectly lucid response.
Kemper speared the olive in his glass. “Are you going to continue the work you started without Bureau sanction?”
“Yes. I’ve got a good informant prospect now, and-”
“I don’t want to know specifics just yet. I just want you to convince me that you understand the risks from both within and outside the Bureau, and that you won’t behave foolishly.”
Littell smiled-and almost looked bold. “Hoover would crucify me. If the Chicago Mob knew I was investigating them without sanction, they’d torture and kill me. Kemper, I’ve got a wild notion about where you’re leading me.”
“You’re thinking of working for Robert Kennedy for real. He’s gotten to you, and you respect the work he’s doing. You’re going to turn things over a notch and start feeding Hoover a minimum of information and selected misinformation.”
Lyndon Johnson waltzed a redhead by the back booths. He’d seen her before-Jack said he could arrange an introduction.
“You’re right, but it’s the senator I want to work for. Bobby’s more your type. He’s as Catholic as you are, and the Mob is just as much his raison d’кtre.”
“And you’ll feed Hoover as much information as you deem fit.”
“The inherent duplicities won’t bother you?”
“Don’t judge me, Ward.”
Littell laughed. “You enjoy my judgments. You enjoy it that someone besides Mr. Hoover has your number. So I’ll warn you. Be careful with the Kennedys.”
Kemper raised his glass. “I will be. And you should know that Jack might damn well be elected President two years from now. If he is, Bobby will have carte blanche to fight organized crime. A Kennedy administration might mean considerable opportunities for both of us.”
Littell raised his glass. “An opportunist like you would know.”
“Salud. Can I tell Bobby that you’ll share your intelligence with the Committee? Anonymously?”
“Yes. And it just hit me that I retire four days before the next presidential inauguration. Should your profligate friend Jack be the one taking office, you might mention a worthy lawyer-cop who needs a job.”
Kemper pulled out an envelope. “You were always a quick study. And you forget that Claire has both our numbers.”
“You’re smirking, Kemper. Read me what you’ve got there.”
Kemper unrolled a sheet of notebook paper. “Quote, ‘And Dad, you wouldn’t believe this one a.m. phone call I got from Helen. Are you sitting down? She had a hot date with Uncle Ward (date of birth March 8, 1913, to Helen’s October 29, 1937) and necked with him in her room. Wait until Susan finds out! Helen’s always sideswiped older men, but this is like Snow White attacking Walt Disney! And I always thought you were the one she had eyes for,’ unquote.”
Littell stood up, blushing. “She’s meeting me later, at my hotel. I told her men liked women who traveled for them. And she’s been the pursuer so far.”
“Helen Agee is a college girl in the guise of a Mack truck. Remember that if things get complicated.”
Littell laughed, and walked off primping. His posture was good, but those dented glasses had to go.
Idealists disdained appearances. Ward had no flair for nice things.
Kemper ordered a second martini and watched the back booths. Echoes drifted his way-congressmen were talking up Cuba.
John Stanton called Cuba a potential Agency hotspot. He said, I might have work for you.
Jack Kennedy walked in. Lyndon Johnson’s redhead passed him a napkin note.
Jack saw Kemper and winked.
C O L L U S I O N
January 1959-January 1961
Unidentified Male #1: “Beard, schmeard. All I know is Mo’s real fuckin’ nervous.”
Unidentified Male #2: “The Outfit’s always covered its bets Cuba-wise. Santo T. is Batista’s best fuckin’ friend. I talked to Mo maybe an hour ago. He goes out for the paper and comes back to watch the fuckin’ Rose Bowl on TV. The paper says Happy fuckin’ New Year, Castro has just taken over Cuba and who knows if he’s pro-U.S., pro-Russian or pro-Man-from-Mars.”
Littell tilted his seat back and adjusted his headphones. It was 4:00 p.m. and snowing-but the Celano’s Tailor Shop talkfest talked on.
He was alone at the THP bug post. He was violating Bureau rugs and Mr. Hoover’s direct orders.
Man #1: “Santo and Sam got to be sweating the casinos down there. The gross profit’s supposed to run half a million a day.”
Man #2: “Mo told me Santo called him right before the kickoff. The crazy fuckin’ Cubans down in Miami are pitching a fit. Mo’s got a piece of that cabstand, you know the one?”
Man #1: “Yeah, the Tiger Kabs. I went down there for the Teamster convention last year and rode in one of those cabs, and I was picking orange and black fuzz out of my ass for the next six fuckin’ months.”
Man #2: “Half those Cuban humps are pro-Beard, and half of them are pro-Batista. Santo told Sam it’s nuts at the stand, like niggers when their welfare checks don’t arrive.”
Laughter hit the feed box-static-laced and overamplified. Littell unhooked his headset and stretched.
He had two hours left on his shift. He’d gleaned no salient intelligence so far: Cuban politics didn’t interest him. He’d logged in ten days of covert listening-and accrued no hard evidence.
He cut a deal with SA Court Meade-a surreptitious work trade. Meade’s mistress lived in Rogers Park; some Commie cell leaders lived nearby. They worked out an agreement: I take your job, you take mine.
They spent cosmetic time working their real assignments and flip-flopped all report writing. Meade chased Reds and an insurance-rich widow. He listened to hoodlums colloquialize.
Court was lazy and pension-secure. Court had twenty-seven years with the Bureau.
He was careful. He hoarded insider knowledge of Kemper Boyd’s Kennedy incursion. He filed detailed Red Squad reports and forged Meade’s signature on all THP memoranda.
He always watched the street for approaching agents. He always entered and exited the bug post surreptitiously.
The plan would work-for a while. The lackluster bug talk was vexing-he needed to recruit an informant.
He’d tailed Lenny Sands for ten consecutive nights. Sands did not habituate homosexual meeting spots. His sexual bent might not prove exploitable-Sands might belittle the threat of exposure.
Snow swirled up Michigan Avenue. Littell studied his one wallet photo.
It was a laminated snapshot of Helen. Her hairdo made her burn scars stand out.
The first time he kissed her scars she wept. Kemper called her “the Mack Truck Girl.” He gave her a Mack truck bulldog hood hanger for Christmas.
Claire Boyd told Susan they were lovers. Susan said, “When the shock wears off, I’ll tell Dad what I think.”
She still hadn’t called him.
Littell put on his headset. He heard the tailor shop door slam.
Unknown Man #1: “Sal, Sal D. Sal, do you believe this weather? Don’t you wish you were down in Havana shooting dice with the Beard?”
“Sal D.”: most likely Mario Salvatore D’Onofrio, AKA “Mad Sal.” Key THP stats:
Independent bookmaker/loan shark. One manslaughter conviction in 1951. Labeled “a psychopathically-derived criminal sadist with uncontrollable psycho-sexual urges to inflict pain.”
Unknown Man #2: “Che se dice, Salvatore? Tell us what’s new and unusual.”
Sal D.: “The news is I lost a bundle on the Colts over the Giants, and I had to tap Sam for a fucking loan.”
Unknown Man #1: “You still got the church thing, Sal? Where you take the paisan groups out to Tahoe and Vegas?”
Static hit the line. Littell slapped the feed box and cleared the air flow.
Sal D.: “…and Gardena and L.A. We catch Sinatra and Dino, and the casinos set us up in these private slot rooms and kick back a percentage. It’s what you call a junket-you know, entertainment and gambling and shit. Hey, Lou, you know Lenny the Jew?”
Lou/Man #1: “Yeah, Sands. Lenny Sands.”
Man #2: “Jewboy Lenny. Sam G.’s fuckin’ court jester.”
Squelch noise drowned out the incoming voices. Littell slapped the console and untangled some feeder conis.
Sal D.: “…So I said, ‘Lenny, I need a guy to travel with me. I need a guy to keep my junketeers lubed up and laughing, so they’ll lose more money and juke up my kickbacks.’ He said, ‘Sal, I don’t audition, but catch me at the North Side Elks on January 1st. I’m doing a Teamster smoker, and if you don’t dig-’”
The heat needle started twitching. Littell hit the kill switch and felt the feed box go cool to the touch.
The D’Onofrio/Sands connection was interesting.
He checked Sal D.’s on-post file. The agent’s summary read horrific.
D’Onofrio lives in a South Side Italian enclave surrounded by Negro-inhabited housing projects. The majority of his bettors and loan customers live within that enclave and D’ Onofrio makes his collection rounds on foot, rarely missing a day. D’Onoflio considers himself to be a guiding light within his community, and the Cook County Sheriff’s Gangster Squad believes that he plays the role of “protector”-i.e., protecting Italian-Americans against Negro criminal elements, and that this role and his strongarrn collection and intimidation tactics have helped to insure his long bookmaker/loan shark reign. It should also be noted that D’Onofrio was a suspect in the unsolved 12/19/57 torture-murder of Maurice Theodore Wilkins, a Negro youth suspected of burglarizing a church rectory in his neighborhood.
A mug shot was clipped to the folder. Mad Sal was cyst-scarred and gargoyle ugly.
o o o
Littell drove to the South Side and circled D’Onofrio’s loan turf. He spotted him on 59th and Prairie.
The man was walking. Littell ditched his car and foot-tailed him from thirty yards back.
Mad Sal entered apartment buildings and exited counting money. Mad Sal tabulated transactions in a prayer book. Mad Sal picked his nose compulsively and wore low-top tennis shoes in a blizzard.
Littell stuck close behind him. Wind claps covered his footsteps.
Mad Sal peeped in windows. Mad Sal took a beat cop’s money: $5 on the Moore/Durelle rematch.
The streets were near-deserted. The tail felt like a sustained hallucination.
A deli clerk tried to stiff Mad Sal. Mad Sal plugged in a portable stapler and riveted his hands to the counter.
Mad Sal entered a church rectory. Littell stopped at the pay phone outside and called Helen.
She picked up on the second ring, “Hello?”
“It’s me, Helen.”
“What’s that noise?”
“It’s the wind. I’m calling from a phone booth.”
“You’re outside in this?”
“Yes. Are you studying?”
“I’m studying torts and welcoming this distraction. Susan called, by the way.”
“Oh, shit. And?”
“And she said I’m of age, and you’re free, white and forty-five. She said, ‘I’m going to wait and see if you two last before I tell my mother.’ Ward, are you coming over tonight?”
Mad Sal walked out and slipped on the rectory steps. A priest helped him up and waved goodbye.
Littell took his gloves off and blew on his hands. “I’ll be by late. There’s a lounge act I have to catch.”
“You’re being cryptic. You act like Mr. Hoover’s looking over your shoulder every second. Kemper tells his daughter everything about his work.”
Littell laughed. “I want you to analyze the Freudian slip you just made.”
Helen whooped. “Oh, God, you’re right!”
A Negro boy walked by. Mad Sal bolted after him.
Littell said, “I have to go.”
“Come by later.”
Mad Sal chased the kid. Snowdrifts and low-cut sneakers slowed him down.
o o o
The Elks Hall steps were jammed. Non-Teamster admittance looked dicey: goons were running an ID checkpoint at the door.
Men filed in with bottle bags and six-packs. They had union badges pinned to their topcoats-about the same size as Bureau shields.
A fresh swarm hit the steps. Littell held up his FBI badge and pushed to the middle. The stampede jostled him inside.
A blonde in G-string and pasties ran the coat-check concession. The foyer walls were lined with bootleg slot machines. Every pull hit a jackpot-Teamsters scooped up coins and yelled.
Littell pocketed his badge. The crowd whooshed him into a big rec hail.
Card tables faced a raised bandstand. Every table was set up with whisky bottles, paper cups and ice.
Strippers dispensed cigars. Tips bought unlimited fondling.
Littell grabbed a ringside seat. A redhead dodged hands, naked-cash wads had popped her G-string.
The lights went down. A baby spot hit the bandstand. Littell built a quick scotch-on-the-rocks.
Three other men sat at his table. Total strangers pounded his back.
Lenny Sands walked on stage, twirling a mike cord a la Sinatra. Lenny mimicked Sinatra-straight down to his spitcurl and voice:
“Fly me to the moon in my souped-up Teamster rig! I’ll put skidmarks on management’s ass, ‘cause my union contract’s big! In other words, Teamsters are kings!!”
The audience hooted and yelled. A man grabbed a stripper and forced her into some dirty-dog dance steps.
Lenny Sands bowed. “Thank you thank you thank you! And ring-a-ding, men of the Northern Illinois Council of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters!”
The crowd applauded. A stripper brought ice refills by-Littell caught a breast in the face.
Lenny said, “It sure is hot up here!”
The stripper hopped on stage and dropped ice cubes down his pants. The audience howled; the man beside Littell squealed and spat bourbon.
Lenny made ecstatic faces. Lenny shook his trouser legs until the ice dropped out.
The crowd wolf-whistled and shrieked and thumped their tables-
The stripper ducked behind a curtain. Lenny put on a Boston accent-Bobby Kennedy’s voice pushed into soprano range.
“Now you listen to me, Mr. Hoffa! You quit associating with those nasty gangsters and nasty truck drivers and snitch off all your friends or I’ll tell my daddy on you!”
The room rocked. The room rolled. Foot stomps had the floor shaking.
“Mr. Hoffa, you’re a no-goodnik and a nasty man! You quit trying to unionize my six children or I’ll tell my daddy and my big brother Jack on you! You be nice or I’ll tell my daddy to buy your union and make all your nasty truck drivers servants at our family compound in Hyannis Port!”
The room roared. Littell felt queasy-hot and lightheaded.
Lenny minced. Lenny preened. Lenny DID Robert F. Kennedy, faggot crusader.
“Mr. Hoffa, you stop that nasty forced bargaining this instant!”
“Mr. Hoffa, stop yelling, you’re wilting my hairdo!”
“Mr. Hoffa, be NIIICE!”
Lenny squeezed the room dry. Lenny wrung it out from the basement to the roof.
“Mr. Hoffa, you’re just SOOOOO butch!”
“Mr. Hoffa, quit scratching-you’ll ruin my nylons!”
“Mr. Hoffa, your Teamsters are just TOOOOO sexy! They’ve got the McClellan Committee and me in such a TIZZY!”
Lenny kept it cranking. Littell caught something three drinks in: he never ridiculed John Kennedy. Kemper called it the Bobby! Jack dichotomy: if you liked one man, you disliked the other.
“Mr. Hoffa, stop confusing me with facts!”
“Mr. Hoffa, stop berating me, or I won’t share my hairdressing secrets with your wife!”
The Elks Hall broiled. Open windows laced in freezing air. The drink ice ran out-strippers filled bowls with fresh snow.
Mob men table-hopped. Littell spotted file-photo faces.
Sam “Mo”/”Momo”/”Mooney” Giancana. Icepick Tony Iannone, Chi-Mob underboss. Donkey Dan Versace, Fat Bob Paolucci, Mad Sal D’Onofrio himself.
Lenny wrapped it up. The strippers shimmied on stage and took bows.
“So fly me to the stars, union paycheck fat! Jimmy Hoffa is our tiger now-Bobby’s just a scrawny rat! In other words, Teamsters are kings!!!!”
Table thumps, claps, cheers, yells, whistles, howls-
Littell ran out a back exit and sucked air in. His sweat froze; his legs fluttered; his scotch dinner stayed down.
He checked the door. A conga line snaked through the rec hall-strippers and Teamsters linked up hands-to-hips. Mad Sal joined them-his tennis shoes squished and leaked snow.
Littell caught his breath and slow-walked around to the parking lot. Lenny Sands was cooling off by his car, scooping ice packs from a snow drift.
Mad Sal walked up and hugged him. Lenny made a face and pulled free.
Littell crouched behind a limousine. Their voices carried his way.
“Lenny, what can I say? You were stupendous.”
“Insider crowds are easy, Sal. You just gotta know what switches to flip.”
“Lenny, a crowd’s a crowd. These Teamsters are working Joes, just like my junket guys. You.lay off the politics and pour on the Italian stuff. I fuckin’ guarantee, every time you lay on the paisan stuff you’ll have a roomful of hyenas on your hands.”
“I don’t know, Sal. I might have a Vegas gig coming up.”
“I am fuckin’ begging you, Lenny. And my fuckin’ junketeers are well known as the biggest casino losers in fuckin’ captivity. Va-va-voom, Lenny. The more they lose, the more we make.”
“I don’t know, Sal. I might have a chance to open for Tony Bennett at the Dunes.”
“Lenny, I am begging. On all fours like a fuckin’ dog I am begging.”
Lenny laughed. “Before you start barking, go to fifteen percent.”
“Fifteen? fuck… You Jew me up, you fuckin’ Jew hump.”
“Twenty percent, then. I only associate with Jew haters for a price.”
“Fuck you, Lenny. You said fifteen.”
“Fuck you, Sal. I changed my mind.”
Silence stretched-Littell visualized a long staredown.
“Okay okay okay. Okay for fuckin’ twenty, you fuckin’ Jew bandit.”
“Sal, I like you. Just don’t shake my hand, you’re too greasy to touch.”
Car doors slammed. Littell saw Mad Sal snag his Caddy and slalom out to the street.
Lenny turned on his headlights and idled the engine. Cigarette smoke blew out the driver’s-side window.
Littell walked to his car. Lenny was parked two rows over- he’d spot his departure.
Lenny just sat there. Drunks careened in front of his beams and took pratfalls on ice.
Littell wiped ice off his windshield. The car sat in snow up to its bumpers.
Lenny pulled out. Littell cut him a full minute’s slack and followed his tracks in the slush.
They led straight to Lake Shore Drive northbound. Littell caught up with him just short of the ramp.
Lenny swung on. Littell stayed four car lengths behind him.
It was a crawl tail-tire chains on crusted blacktop-two cars and one deserted expressway.
Lenny passed the Gold Coast off-ramps. Littell dawdled back and fixed on his taillights.
They crawled past Chicago proper. They crawled past Glencoe, Evanston and Wilmette.
Signs marked the Winnetka town limits. Lenny spun right and pulled off the highway at the very last second.
There was no way to follow him-he’d spin out or clip a guardrail.
Littell took the next off-ramp down. Winnetka was 1:00 a.m. quiet and beautiful-all Tudor mansions and freshly plowed streets.
He grid-cruised and hit a business thoroughfare. A stretch of cars were parked outside a cocktail lounge: Perry’s Little Log Cabin.
Lenny’s Packard Caribbean was nosed up to the curb.
Littell parked and walked in. A ceiling banner brushed his face: “Welcome 1959!” in silver spangles.
The place was cold-weather cozy. The decor was rustic: mocktimber walls, hardwood bar, Naugahyde lounging sofas.
The clientele was all male. The bar was standing room only. Two men sat on a lounge sofa, fondling-Littell looked away.
He stared straight ahead. He felt eyes strafe him. He spotted phone booths near the rear exit-enclosed and safe.
He walked back. Nobody approached him. His holster rig had rubbed his shoulders raw-he’d spent the whole night sweating and fidgeting.
He sat down in the first booth. He cracked the door and caught a full view of the bar.
There’s Lenny, drinking Pernod. There’s Lenny and a blond man rubbing legs.
Littell watched them. The blond man slipped Lenny a note and waltzed off. A Platters medley hit the jukebox.
The room thinned out a few couples at a time. The sofa couple stood up, unzipped. The bartender announced last call.
Lenny ordered Cointreau. The front door opened. Icepick Tony Iannone walked in.
“One of Giancana’s most feared underbosses” started Frenchkissing the barman. The Chicago Mob killer suspected of nine mutilation murders was sucking and biting on the barman’s ear.
Littell went dizzy. Littell went dry-mouthed. Littell felt his pulse go crazy.
Tony/Lenny/Lenny/Tony-who knows who’s QUEER?
Tony saw Lenny. Lenny saw Tony. Lenny ran out the rear exit.
Tony chased Lenny. Littell froze. The phone booth went airless and sucked all the breath out of him.
He got the door open. He stumbled outside. Cold air slammed him.
An alley ran behind the bar. He heard noise down and left, by the back of the adjoining building.
Tony had Lenny pinned down on a snowdrift. Lenny was biting and kicking and gouging.
Tony pulled out two switchblades. Littell pulled his gun, fumbled it and dropped it. His warning scream choked out mute.
Lenny kneed Tony. Tony pitched sideways. Lenny bit his nose off.
Littell slid on ice and fell. Soft-packed snow muffled the sound. Fifteen yards between him and them-they couldn’t see him or hear him.
Tony tried to scream. Lenny spat his nose out and jammed snow in his mouth. Tony dropped his knives; Lenny grabbed them.
They couldn’t see him. He slid on his knees and crawled for his gun.
Tony pawed at the snow. Lenny stabbed him two-handed-in his eyes, in his cheeks, in his throat.
Littell crawled for his gun.
Tony died coughing up bloody snow.
Music drifted outside: a soft last-call ballad.
The exit door never opened. Jukebox noise covered the whole-
Littell crawled over to Tony. Littell picked the corpse clean: watch, wallet, key ring. Print-sustaining switchblades shoved in hilt-deep-yes, do it.
He pulled them free. He got his legs. He ran down the alley until his lungs gave out.
Pete pulled up to the cabstand. A mango splattered on his windshield.
The street was void of tiger cars and tiger riffraff. Placard wavers prowled the sidewalk, armed with bags full of too-ripe fruit.
Jimmy called him in L.A. yesterday. He said, “Earn your five fucking percent. The Kennedy bug went down, but you still owe me. My Cubans have been batshit since Castro took over. You go to Miami and restore fucking order and you can keep your five fucking-”
Somebody yelled, “Viva Fidel!” Somebody yelled, “Castro, el grande puto communisto! “ A garbage war erupted two doors down: kids tossing fat red pomegranates.
Pete locked his car and ran into the hut. A redneck type was working the switchboard, solo.
Pete said, “here’s Fulo?”
The geek yuk-yuk-yukked. “The trouble with this operation is half the guys are pro-Batista and half the guys are pro-Castro. You just can’t get guys like that to show up for work when there’s a nifty riot in progress, so here I am all by myself.”
“I said, ‘Where’s Fulo?’
“Working this switchboard is an education. I’ve been getting these calls asking me where the action is and ‘What should I bring?’ I like Cubans, but I think they’re prone to untoward displays of violence.”
The geek was cadaver thin. He had a bad Texas drawl and the world’s worst set of teeth.
Pete cracked his knucldes. “Why don’t you tell me where Fulo is.”
“Fulo went looking for action, and my guess is he brought his machete. And you’re Pete Bondurant, and I’m Chuck Rogers. I’m a good friend of Jimmy and some boys in the Outfit, and I am a dedicated opponent of the worldwide Communist conspiracy.”
A garbage bomb wobbled the front window. Two lines of placard wavers squared off outside.
The phone rang. Rogers plugged the call in. Pete wiped pomegranate seeds off his shirt.
Rogers unhooked his headset. “That was Fulo. He said if ‘el jefe Big Pete’ got in, he should go by his place and give him a hand with something. I think it’s 917 Northwest 49th. That’s three blocks to the left, two to the right.”
Pete dropped his suitcase. Rogers said, “So who do you like, the Beard or Batista?”
o o o
The address was a peach stucco shack. A Tiger Kab with four slashed tires blocked the porch.
Pete climbed over it and knocked. Fulo cracked the door and slid a chain off.
Pete shoved his way in. He saw the damage straight off: two spics wearing party hats, muerto on the living-room floor.
Fulo locked up. “We were celebrating, Pedro. They called my beloved Fidel a true Marxist, and I took offense at this slander.”
He shot them in the back at point-blank range. Small-bore exit wounds-the cleanup wouldn’t be that big a deal.
Pete said, “Let’s get going on this.”
o o o
Fulo smashed their teeth to powder. Pete burned their fingerprints off on a hot plate.
Fulo dug the spent rounds out of the wall and flushed them down the toilet. Pete quick-scorched the floor stains-spectograph tests would read negative.
Fulo pulled down the living-room drapes and wrapped them around the bodies. The exit wounds had congealed-no blood seeped through.
Chuck Rogers showed up. Fulo said he was competent and trustworthy. They dumped the stiffs into the trunk of his car.
Pete said, “Who are you?”
Chuck said, “I’m a petroleum geologist. I’m also a licensed pilot and a professional anti-Communist.”
“So who foots the bill?”
Chuck said, “The United States of America.”
o o o
Chuck felt like cruising. Pete co-signed the notion-Miami grabbed his gonads like L.A. used to.
They cruised. Fulo tossed the bodies off a deserted stretch of the Bal Harbor Causeway. Pete chain-smoked and dug the scenery.
He liked the big white houses and the big white sky-Miami was one big shiny bleach job. He liked the breathing room between swank districts and slums. He liked the shitkicker cops out prowling-they looked like they’d be hell on rambunctious niggers.
Chuck said, “Castro’s ideological beliefs are up in the air. He’s made statements that can be construed as very pro-U.S. and very pro-Red. My friends in the intelligence community are working on plans to cornhole him if he goes Commie.”
They drove back to Flagler. Armed men were guarding the cabstand-off-duty fuzz with that fat-and-sassy look.
Chuck waved to them. “Jimmy takes good care of the police contingent around here. He’s got this phantom union set up, and half the cops working this sector have got nice no-show jobs and nice paychecks.”
A kid slammed a leaflet on their windshield. Fulo translated odd slogans-Commie-type platitudes all.
Rocks hit the car. Pete said, “This is too crazy. Let’s go stash Fulo someplace.”
o o o
Rogers leased a room in an all-spic boardinghouse. Radio gear and hate leaflets covered every spare inch of floor space.
Fulo and Chuck relaxed with beers. Pete skimmed pamphlet tities and got a good laugh mojo going.
“Kikes Kontrol Kremlin!” “Fluoridation: Vatican Plot?” “Red Stormclouds Brewing-One Patriot’s Response.” “Why NonCaucasians Overbreed: A Scientist Explains.” “Pro-American Checldist: Do You Score RED or Red, White and Blue?”
Fulo said, “Chuck, it is rather crowded in here.”
Rogers futzed with a short-wave receiver. A hate tirade kicked in: Jew bankers, blah blah.
Pete hit a few switches. The rant sputtered out cold.
Chuck smiled. “Politics is something you come around to slow. You can’t expect to understand the world situation immediately.”
“I should introduce you to Howard Hughes. He’s as crazy as you are.”
“You think anticommunism is crazy?”
“I think it’s good for business, and anything that’s good for business is okay with me.”
“I don’t think that’s a very enlightened attitude.”
“Think what you like.”
“I will. And I know you’re thinking, ‘Holy Hannah, who is this guy that’s my fellow murder-one accessory, because we sure have shared some unusual experiences in our short acquaintance.’”
Pete leaned against the window. He caught a little blip of a prowl car half a block down.
“My guess is you’re a CIA contract hand. You’re supposed to get next to the Cubans at the stand while everybody waits to see how Castro jumps.”
Fulo came on indignant. “Fidel will jump toward the United States of America.”
Chuck laughed. “Immigrants make the best Americans. You should know, huh, Pete? Aren’t you some kind of frog?”
Pete popped his thumbs. Rogers flinched.
“You just make like I’m a 100% American who knows what’s good for business.”
“Whoa now. I never doubted your patriotism.”
Pete heard whispers outside the door. Looks circulated-Chuck and Fulo caught the gist quick. Pete heard shotgun announcement noise: three loud and clear breach-to-barrel pumps.
He dropped his piece behind some pamphlets. Fulo and Chuck put their hands up.
Plainclothesmen kicked the door down. They ran in with shotgun butts at high port arms.
Pete went down behind a powder-puff shot. Fulo and Chuck played it rugged and got beaten skull-cracking senseless.
A cop said, “The big guy’s faking.” A cop said, “We can fix that.”
Rubber-padded gun butts slammed him. Pete curled up his tongue so he wouldn’t bite it off.
o o o
He came to cuffed and shackled. Chair slats gouged his back; percussion bopped him upside his brain.
Light hit his eyes. One eye only-tissue flaps cut his sight in half. He made out three cops sitting around a bolted-down table.
Snare drums popped behind his ears. A-bombs ignited up and down his spine.
Pete flexed his arms and snapped his handcuff chain.
Two cops whistled. One cop applauded.
They’d double-manacled his ankles-he couldn’t give them an encore.
The senior cop crossed his legs. “We got an anonymous tip, Mr. Bondurant. One of Mr. Machado’s neighbors saw Mr. Adolfo Herendon and Mr. Armando Cruz-MartIn enter Mr. Machado’s house, and he heard what might have been shots several hours later. Now, a few hours after that, you and Mr. Rogers arrive separately. The two of you and Mr. Machado leave carrying two large bundles wrapped in window curtains, and the neighbor gets Mr. Rogers’ license number. We checked Mr. Rogers’ car, and we noticed some debris that looks like skin fragments, and we certainly would like to hear your comments on all of this.”
Pete stuck his eyebrow back in place. “Charge me or release me. You know who I am and who I know.”
“We know you know Jimmy Hoffa. We know you’re pals with Mr. Rogers, Mr. Machado and some other Tiger Kab drivers.”
Pete said, “Charge me or release me.” The cop tossed cigarettes and matches on his lap.
Cop #2 leaned in close. “You probably think Jimmy Hoffa’s bought off every policeman in this town, but son, I’m here to tell you that simply ain’t the case.”
“Charge me or release me.”
“Son, you are trying my patience.”
“I’m not your son, you cracker faggot.”
“Boy, that kind of talk will get your face slapped.”
“If you slap me, I’ll go for your eyes. Don’t make me prove it.”
Cop #3 came on soft. “Whoa, now, whoa. Mr. Bondurant, you know we can hold you for seventy-two hours without charging you. You know you’ve probably got a concussion and could use some medical attention. Now, why don’t you-”
“Give me my phone call, then charge me or release me.”
The senior cop laced his hands behind his head. “We let your friend Rogers make a call. He fed the jailer some cock-and-bull story about having government connections and called a Mr. Stanton. Now, who are you gonna call-Jimmy Hoffa? You think Uncle Jimmy’s gonna go your bail on a double-homicide charge and maybe engender all kinds of bad publicity that he doesn’t need?”
An A-bomb blast hit his neck. Pete almost blacked out.
Cop #2 sighed. “This boy’s too woozy to cooperate. Let’s let him rest up a bit.”
o o o
He passed out, woke up, passed out. His headache subsided from A-bomb to nitroglycerine.
He read wall scratchings. He swiveled his neck to stay limber. He broke the world’s record for holding a piss.
He broke down the situation.
Fulo cracks or Fulo doesn’t crack. Chuck cracks or Chuck doesn’t. Jimmy buys them bail or lets them swing. Maybe the DA gets smart: spic-on-spic homicides rate bubkes.
He could call Mr. Hughes. Mr. Hughes could nudge Mr. Hoover-which meant case fucking closed.
He told Hughes he’d be gone three days. Hughes agreed to the trip, no questions asked. Hughes agreed because the Kennedy shakedown backfired. Joe and Bobby shrunk his balls down to peanut size.
And Ward J. Littell slapped him.
Which decreed the cocksucker’s death sentence.
Gail was gone. The Jack K. gig went pffftt. Hoffa’s Kennedy hate sizzled-hot, hot, hot. Hughes was still gossip/smear crazed and hot to find a new Hush-Hush stringer.
Pete read wall musings. The Academy Award winner: “Miami PD Sucks Rhino Dick.”
Two men walked in and pulled chairs up. A jailer unshackled his legs and walked out fast.
Pete stood up and stretched. The interrogation room dipped and swayed.
The younger man said, “I’m John Stanton, and this is Guy Banister. Mr. Banister is retired FBI, and he was assistant superintendent of the New Orleans Police for a spell.”
Stanton was slight and sandy-haired. Banister was big and booze-flushed.
Pete lit a cigarette. Inhaling torqued his headache. “I’m listening.”
Banister grinned. “I remember that civil rights trouble of yours. Kemper Boyd and Ward Littell arrested you, didn’t they?”
“You know they did.”
“I used to be the Chicago SAC, and I always thought Littell was a weak sister.”
Stanton straddled his chair. “But Kemper Boyd’s another matter. You know, Pete, he went by the Tiger stand and showed your mug shot around. One of the men pulled a knife, and Boyd disarmed him in a rather spectacular fashion.”
Pete said, “Boyd’s a stylish guy. And this is starting to play like some kind of audition, so I’ll tell you that I’d recommend him for just about any kind of law-enforcement work.”
Stanton smiled. “You’re not a bad audition prospect yourself.”
Banister smiled. “You’re a licensed private investigator. You’re a former deputy sheriff. You’re Howard Hughes’ man, and you know Jimmy Hoffa, Fulo Machado and Chuck Rogers. Those are stylish credentials.”
Pete stubbed his cigarette out on the wall. “The CIA’s not so bad, as credentials go. That’s who you are, right?”
Stanton stood up. “You’re free to go. No charges will be filed on you, Rogers or Machado.”
“But you’ll be keeping in touch?”
“Not exactly. But I may ask a favor of you one day. And of course, you’ll be well paid for it.”
(New York City, 1/5/59)
The suite was magnificent. Joe Kennedy bought it from the hotel outright.
A hundred people left the main room only half-filled. The picture window gave you the breadth of Central Park in a snowstorm.
Jack invited him. He said his father’s Carlyle bashes were not to be missed-and besides, Bobby needs to talk to you.
Jack said there might be women. Jack said Lyndon Johnson’s redhead might appear.
Kemper watched cliques constellate and dissolve. The party swirled all around him.
Old Joe stood with his horsy daughters. Peter Lawford ruled an all-male group. Jack speared cocktail shrimp with Nelson Rockefeller.
Lawford prophesied the Kennedy cabinet Frank Sinatra was considered a shoo-in for Prime Minister of Pussy.
Bobby was late. The redhead hadn’t arrived-Jack would have signaled him if he saw her first.
Kemper sipped eggnog. His tuxedo jacket fit loose-he’d had it cut to cover a shoulder holster. Bobby enforced a strict nosidearms policy-his men were lawyers, not cops.
He was twice a cop-double-salaried and double-dutied.
He told Mr. Hoover that Anton Gretzler and Roland Kirpaski were dead-but their “presumed dead” status had not demoralized Bobby Kennedy. Bobby was determined to chase Hoffa, the Teamsters and the Mob WAY past the McClellan Committee’s expiration date. Municipal PD racket squads and grand jury investigators armed with Committee-gathered evidence would then become the Get Hoffa spearhead. Bobby would soon be preparing the groundwork for Jack’s 1960 campaign-but Jimmy Hoffa would remain his personal target.
Hoover demanded investigatory specifics. He told him that Bobby wanted to trace the “spooky” three million dollars that financed Hoffa’s Sun Valley development-Bobby was convinced that Hoffa skimmed cash off the top and that Sun Valley itself constituted land fraud. Bobby instinctively believed in the existence of separate, perhaps coded, Teamster Central States Pension Fund books-ledgers detailing tens of millions of dollars in hidden assets-money lent to gangsters and crooked businessmen at gargantuan interest rates. An elusive rumor: A retired Chicago hoodlum managed the Fund. Bobby’s personal instinct: The total Fund package was his most viable Get Hoffa wedge.
He had two salaries now. He had two sets of conflicting duties. He had John Stanton hinting at offers-if the CIA’s Cuban plans stabilized.
It would give him a third salary. It would give him enough income to sustain his own pied-a-terre.
Peter Lawford cornered Leonard Bernstein. Mayor Wagner chatted up Maria Callas.
A waiter refilled Kemper’s tankard. Joe Kennedy walked an old man up.
“Kemper, this is Jules Schiffrin. Jules, Kemper Boyd. You two should talk. The two of you are rascals from way back.”
They shook hands. Joe slid off to talk to Bennett Cerf.
“How are you, Mr. Schiffrin?”
“I’m fine, thank you. And I know why I’m a rascal. But you? You’re too young.”
“I’m a year older than Jack Kennedy.”
“And I’m four years younger than Joe, so things even out. Is that your occupation, rascal?”
“I’m retired from the FBI. Right now, I’m working for the McClellan Committee.”
“You’re an ex-G-man? And retired so young?”
Kemper winked. “I got tired of FBI-sanctioned car theft.”
Schiffrin mimicked the wink. “Tired, schniired. How bad could it be if it bought you custom mohair tuxedos like you’re wearing? I should own such a
Kemper smiled. “What do you do?”
“‘Did do’ is more like it. And what I did do was serve as a financier and a labor consultant. Those are euphemisms, in case you’re wondering. What I didn’t do was have lots of lovely children to enjoy in my old age. Such lovely children Joe has. Look at them.”
Kemper said, “You’re from Chicago?”
Schiffrin beamed. “How did you know that?”
“I’ve studied regional accents. It’s something I’m good at.”
“Good doesn’t describe it. And that drawl of yours, is that Alabama?”
“Aah, the Volunteer State. It’s too bad my friend Heshie isn’t here. He’s a Detroit-born gonif who’s lived in the Southwest for years. He’s got an accent that would baffle you.”
Bobby walked into the foyer. Schiffrin saw him and rolled his eyes. “There’s your boss. Pardon my French, but don’t you think he’s a bit of a shitheel?”
“In his way, yes.”
“Now you’re euphemizing. I remember Joe and I were yakking once, about how we fucked Howard Hughes on a deal thirty years ago. Bobby objected to the word ‘fuck’ because his kids were in the next room. They couldn’t even hear, but-”
Bobby signaled. Kemper caught the gesture and nodded.
“Excuse me, Mr. Schiffrin.”
“Go. Your boss beckons. Nine kids Joe had, so one shitbird isn’t such a bad average.”
Kemper walked over. Bobby steered him straight into the cloakroom. Fur coats and evening capes brushed up against them.
“Jack said you wanted to see me.”
“I did. I need you to collate some evidence briefs and write out a summary of everything the Committee’s done, so that we can send out a standardized report to all the grand juries who’ll be taking over for us. I realize that paperwork isn’t your style, but this is imperative.”
“I’ll start in the morning.”
Kemper cleared his throat. “Bob, there’s something I wanted to run by you.”
“I have a close friend. He’s an agent in the Chicago office. I can’t tell you his name just yet, but he’s a very capable and intelligent man.”
Bobby wiped snow off his topcoat. “Kemper, you’re leading me. I realize that you’re used to having your way with people, but please get to the point.”
“The point is he was transferred off the Top Hoodlum Program against his will. He hates Mr. Hoover and Mr. Hoover’s ‘There is no Mob’ stance, and he wants to conduit anti-Mob intelligence through me to you. He understands the risks, and he’s willing to take them. And for what it’s worth, he’s an ex-Jesuit seminarian.”
Bobby hung his coat up. “Can we trust him?”
“He wouldn’t be a conduit to Hoover?”
Kemper laughed. “Hardly.”
Bobby looked at him. Bobby gave him his witness-intimidation stare.
“All right. But I want you to tell the man not to do anything illegal. I don’t want a zealot out there wiretapping and God knows what else because he thinks I’ll back him up on it.”
“I’ll tell him. Now, what areas do you-?”
“Tell him I’m interested in the possibility that secret Pension Fund books exist. Tell him that if they do, it’s likely that the Chicago Mob administers them. Have him work off that supposition, and see if he can come up with any general Hoffa intelligence while he’s at it.”
Guests filed past the cloakroom. A woman trailed her mink coat on the floor. Dean Acheson almost tripped over it.
Bobby winced. Kemper saw his eyes slip out of focus.
“What is it?”
“Is there anything else you’d-?”
“No, there isn’t. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Kemper smiled and walked back to the party. The main room was crowded now-maneuvering was a chore.
The mink woman had heads turning.
She made a butler pet her coat. She insisted that Leonard Bernstein try it on. She mambo-stepped through the crowd and snatched Joe Kennedy’s drink.
Joe gave her a small, gift-wrapped box. The woman tucked it in her purse. Three Kennedy sisters walked off in a huff.
Peter Lawford ogled the woman. Bennett Cerf slid by and peeked down her dress. Vladimir Horowitz waved her over to the piano.
Kemper took a private elevator down to the lobby. He picked up a courtesy phone and badgered the switchboard girl for a straight patch to Chicago.
She put him through. Helen answered on the second ring.
“It’s me, sweetheart. The one you used to have a crush on.”
“Kemper! What are you doing with that syrupy southern accent!”
“I’m engaged in subterfuge.”
“Well, I’m engaged in law school and looking for an apartment, and it is so difficult!”
“All good things are. Ask your middle-aged boyfriend, he’ll tell you.”
Helen whispered. “Ward’s been moody and secretive lately. Will you try to-?”
Littell came on the line. “Kemper, hi.”
Helen blew kisses and put her extension down. Kemper said, “Hello, son.”
“Hello yourself. I hate to be abrupt, but have you-?”
“Yes, I have.”
“And Bobby said yes. He said he wants you to work for us sub rosa, and he wants you to follow up on that lead Roland Kirpaski gave us, and try to determine if there really are secret Pension Fund books hiding untold zillions of dollars.”
“Good. This is… very good.”
Kemper lowered his voice. “Bobby reiterated what I told you. Don’t take unnecessary risks. You remember that. Bobby’s more of a stickler for legalities than I am, so you just remember to be careful, and remember who you have to look out for.”
Littell said, “I’ll be careful. I may have a Mob man compromised on a homicide, and I think I might be able to turn him as an informant.”
The mink woman walked through the lobby. A slew of bellboys rushed to get the door for her.
“Ward, I have to go.”
“God bless you for this, Kemper. And tell Mr. Kennedy that I won’t disappoint him.”
Kemper hung up and walked outside. Wind roared down 76th Street and toppled trashcans set out on the curb.
The mink woman was standing under the hotel canopy. She was unwrapping Joe Kennedy’s gift.
Kemper stood a few feet away from her. The gift was a diamond broach tucked inside a roll of thousand-dollar bills.
A wino stumbled by. The mink woman gave him the broach. Wind fanned the roll and showed off at least fifty grand.
The wino giggled and looked at his broach. Kemper laughed out loud.
A cab pulled up. The mink woman leaned in and said, “881 Fifth Avenue.”
Kemper opened the door for her.
She said, “Aren’t the Kennedys vulgar?”
Her eyes were drop-dead translucent green.
One jiggle snapped the lock. Littell pulled his pick out and closed the door behind him.
Passing headlights strafed the windows. The front room was small and filled with antiques and art deco gewgaws.
His eyes adjusted to the dark. There was good outside light-he didn’t need to risk turning lamps on.
Lenny Sands’ apartment was tidy and midwinter stuffy.
The Icepick Tony killing was five days old and unsolved. The TV and papers omitted one fact: that Iannone died outside a queer tryst spot. Court Meade said Giancana put the fix in: he didn’t want Tony slandered as a homo, and refused to believe it himself. Meade quoted some scary bug-post talk: “Sam’s got scouts out rousting known fruit rollers”; “Mo said Tony’s killer is gonna get castrated.”
Giancana couldn’t believe a self-evident fact Giancana thought Tony walked into Perry’s Little Log Cabin by mistake.
Littell got out his pen flash and Minox. Lenny’s recent schedule included Vendo-King pickups until midnight. It was 9:20 now-he had time to work.
Lenny’s address book was tucked under the living-room phone. Littell skimmed through it and noted auspicious names.
Eclectic Lenny knew Rock Hudson and Carlos Marcello. Hollywood Lenny knew Gail Russell and Johnnie Ray. Gangland Lenny knew Giancana, Butch Montrose and Rocco Malvaso.
One strange thing: His Mob address/numbers didn’t match the on-file THP listings.
Littell flipped pages. Odd names hit him.
Senator John Kennedy, Hyannis Port, Mass.; Spike Knode, 114 Gardenia, Mobile, Alabama; Laura Hughes, 881 5th Ave., New York City; Paul Bogaards, 1489 Fountain, Milwaukee.
He shot through the book alphabetically. He held the pen flash in his teeth and snapped one photograph per page. He notched thirty-two exposures up to the M’s.
His legs ached from squatting down to shoot The flash kept slipping out of his mouth.
He heard key/lock noise. He heard door rattles-NINETY MINUTES AHEAD OF SCHED-
Littell hugged the wall by the door. He replayed every judo move Kemper taught him.
Lenny Sands walked in. Littell grabbed him from behind and cupped his mouth shut Remember-”Jam one thumb to the suspect’s carotid and take him down supine.”
He did it Kemper-pure. Lenny went prone with no resistance. Littell pulled his muzzle hand free and kicked the door shut.
Lenny didn’t scream or yell. His face was jammed into a wad of scrunched-up carpet.
Littell eased off the carotid. Lenny coughed and retched.
Littell knelt beside him. Littell pulled out his revolver and cocked it.
“I’m with the Chicago FBI. I’ve got you for the Tony Iannone killing, and if you don’t work for me I’ll hand you up to Giancana and the Chicago PD. I’m not asking you to inform on your friends. What I’m interested in is the Teamsters’ Pension Fund.”
Lenny heaved for breath. Littell stood up and hit a wall switch-the room went bright with glare.
He saw a liquor tray by the couch. Cut-glass decanters full of scotch, bourbon and brandy.
Lenny pulled his knees up and hugged them. Littell tucked his gun in his waistband and pulled out a glassine bag.
It held two blood-crusted switchblades.
He showed them to Lenny. He said, “I dusted them for prints and got four latents that matched your DMV set.”
It was a bluff. All he got were smears.
“You’ve got no choice in this, Lenny. You know what Sam would do to you.”
Lenny broke a sweat. Littell poured him a scotch-the smell made him salivate.
Lenny sipped his drink two-handed. His tough-guy voice didn’t quite work.
“I know bubkes about the Fund. What I know is that connected guys and certain businessman types apply for these large-interest loans and get pushed up some kind of loan ladder.”
“To Sam Giancana?”
“That’s one theory.”
“Then elaborate on it.”
“The theory is that Giancana consults with Jimmy Hoffa on all the big-money loan applications. Then they get accepted or refused.”
“Are there alternative Pension Fund books? What I’m thinking of is coded books hiding secret assets.”
“I don’t know.”
Kemper Boyd always said COW YOUR INFORMANTS.
Lenny hauled himself into a chair. Schizophrenic Lenny knew that tough Jewboys don’t cringe on the floor.
Littell poured himself a double scotch. Lounge-Act Lenny said, “Make yourself at home.”
Littell tucked the switchblades in his pocket. “I checked your address book, and I noticed that your addresses don’t match the addresses that the Top Hoodlum Program has on file.”
“The addresses of members of the Chicago Crime Cartel.”
“Oh, those addresses.”
“Why don’t they match?”
Lenny said, “Because they’re fuck pads. They’re pads where guys go to cheat on their wives. I’ve got keys to some of the pads, because I drop off jukebox receipts to them. In fact, I was bagging receipts at that fucking queer bar when that fucking faggot Iannone came on to me.”
Littell downed his drink. “I saw you kill Iannone. I know why you were at Perry’s Little Log Cabin, and why you frequent Hernando’s Hideaway. I know you’ve got two lives and two voices and two sets of God knows what else. I know that Iannone went after you because he didn’t want you knowing that he did, too.”
Lenny SQUEEEZED his glass, two-handed. Thick-cut crystal snapped and shattered-
Whisky sprayed out. Blood mixed with it. Lenny did not yelp or flinch or move.
Littell tossed his glass on the couch. “I know you made a deal with Sal D’Onofrio.”
“I know you’re going to travel with his gambling junkets.”
“Sal’s a loan shark. Could he refer prospects up the Pension Fund ladder?”
Littell said, “Come on, talk to me. I’m not going to leave until I have what I came for.”
Lenny wiped blood off his hands. “I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. As sharks go, Sal’s small fry.”
“What about Jack Ruby? He sharks part-time down in Dallas.”
“Jack’s a clown. He knows people, but he’s a clown.”
Littell lowered his voice. “Do the Chicago boys know you’re a homosexual?”
Lenny choked sobs back. Littell said, “Answer the question and admit what you are.”
Lenny shut his eyes and nodded, no no no.
“Then answer this question. Will you be my informant?”
Lenny shut his eyes and nodded, yes yes yes.
“The papers said Iannone was married.”
“Yes. He was married.”
“Did he have a fuck pad?”
“He must have.”
Littell buttoned up his overcoat. “I might do you a solid, Lenny.”
“I’ll be in touch. You know what I’m interested in, so get on it.”
Lenny ignored him. Lenny started picking glass out of his hands.
o o o
He took a key ring off Iannone’s body. It contained four keys on a fob marked “Di Giorgio’s Locksmith’s, 947 Hudnut Drive, Evanston.”
Two car keys and one assumed house key. The remaining key might be for a fuck-pad door.
Littell drove up to Evanston. He hit on some dumb late-night luck: the locksmith lived in back of his shop.
The unexpected FBI roust scared the man. He identified the keys as his work. He said he installed all of Iannone’s door locks-at two addresses.
2409 Kenilworth in Oak Park 84 Wolverton in Evanston.
Iannone lived in Oak Park-that fact made the papers. The Evanston address was a strong fuck-pad possibility.
The locksmith supplied easy-to-follow directions. Littell found the address in just a few minutes.
It was a garage apartment behind a Northwestern U frat house. The neighborhood was dark and dead quiet.
The key fit the door. Littell let himself in, gun first The place was uninhabited and musty.
He turned on the lights in both rooms. He tossed every cupboard, drawer, shelf, cubbyhole and crawl space. He found dildoes, whips, spiked dog collars, amyl nitrite ampules, twelve jars of K-Y Jelly, a bag of marijuana, a brass-studded motorcycle jacket, a sawed-off shotgun, nine rolls of Benzedrine, a Nazi armband, oil paintings depicting all-male sodomy and soixante-neuf and a snapshot of Icepick Tony Iannone and a college boy nude cheek-to-cheek.
Kemper Boyd always said PROTECT YOUR INFORMANTS.
Littell called Celano’s Tailor Shop. A man answered- “Yeah?”- unmistakably Butch Montrose.
Littell disguised his voice. “Don’t worry about Tony Iannone. He was a fucking faggot. Go-to 84 Wolverton in Evanston and see for yourself.”
“Hey, what are you say-?”
Littell hung up. He nailed the snapshot to the wall for the whole world to see.
(Los Angeles, 1/11/59)
Hush-Hush was cramming toward deadline. The office staff was buzzing on Benzedrine-spiked coffee.
“Artists” were pasting up a cover: “Paul Robeson-Royal Red Recidivist.” A “correspondent” was typing copy: “Wife Beater Spade Cooley-Will the Country Stomper Stomp Too Far?” A “researcher” was browsing pamphlets, trying to link nigger hygiene to cancer.
Pete was bored.
MIAMI bopped through his head. Hush-Hush felt like a giant cactus shoved up his ass.
Sol Maltzman was dead. Gail Hendee was long gone. The new Hush-Hush staff was 100% geek. Howard Hughes was frantic to find a dirt digger.
His prospects all said NO. Everybody knew the L.A. fuzz seized the Kennedy smear issue. Hush-Hush was the leper colony of scandal-sheet journalism.
Hughes CRAVED dirt. Hughes CRAVED slander skank to share with Mr. Hoover. What Hughes CRAVED, Hughes BOUGHT.
Pete bought an issue’s worth of dirt. His cop contacts supplied him with a one-week load of lackluster skank.
“Spade Cooley, Boozefried Misogynist!” “Marijuana Shack Raid Nets Sal Mineo!” “Beatnik Arrests Shock Hermosa Beach!”
It was pure bullshit. It was very un-Miami.
Miami was goood. Miami was this drug he got withdrawals from. He left Miami with a mild concussion-not bad for the pounding he took.
Jimmy Hoffa called him in to restore order. He got out of jail and did it.
The cabstand demanded order-political rifts had business fucked six ways from Sunday. The riots sputtered out, but Tiger Kab still simmered with factional jive. He had pro-Batista and pro-Castro guys to deal with-left- and right-wing ideologue thugs who needed to be toilet-trained and broken in to the White Man’s Rule of Order.
He laid down laws.
No drinking and placard waving on the job. No guns or knives-check your weapons with the dispatcher. No political fraternizing-rival factions must remain segregated.
One Batistaite challenged the rules. Pete beat him half-dead.
He laid down more laws.
No pimping on duty-leave your whores at home. No B amp;Es or stickups on duty.
He made Chuck Rogers the new day dispatcher. He considered it a political appointment.
Rogers was a CIA contract goon. Co-dispatcher Fulo Machado was CIA-linked.
John Stanton was a mid-level CIA agent-and a new cabstand habituй. He got Fulo’s murder-one beef squelched with a snap of his fingers.
Stanton’s pal Guy Banister hated Ward Littell. Banister and Stanton were hipped on Kemper Boyd.
Jimmy Hoffa owned Tiger Kab. Jimmy Hoffa had points in two Havana casinos.
Littell and Boyd made him for two killings. Stanton and Banister probably didn’t know that. Stanton fed him that little teaser: “I may ask a favor of you one day.”
Things were dovetailing tight and cozy. His feelers started perkperk-perking.
Pete buzzed the receptionist. “Donna, get me long distance person-to-person. I want to talk to a man named Kemper Boyd at the McClellan Committee office in Washington, D.C. Tell the operator to try the Senate Office Building, and if you get through, say I’m the caller.”
Pete hung up and waited. The call was a longshot-Boyd was probably out somewhere, conniving.
His intercom light flashed. Pete picked up the phone.
“Speaking. And surprised.”
“Well, I owe you one, so I thought I’d deliver.”
“I was in Miami last week. I ran into two men named John Stanton and Guy Banister, and they seemed real interested in you.”
“Mr. Stanton and I have already spoken. But thanks. It’s nice to know they’re still interested.”
“I gave you a good reference.”
“You’re a sport. Is there anything I can do for you?”
“You can find me a new dirt digger for Hush-Hush.”
Boyd hung up, laughing.
The Committee booked him into a Howard Johnson’s. Kemper upgraded to a two-room suite at the Fontainebleau.
He made up the difference out of his own pocket. He was closing in on three salaries-it wasn’t that big an extravagance.
Bobby sent him back to Miami. He instigated the trip himself- and promised to return with some key Sun Valley depositions. He didn’t tell Bobby that the CIA was thinking about recruiting him.
The trip was a little vacation. If Stanton was good, they’d connect.
Kemper carried a chair out to the balcony. Ward Littell had mailed him a report-he needed to edit it before sending it on to Bobby.
The report was twelve typed pages. Ward included a longhand preface.
Since we’re partners in this gentle subterfuge, I’m giving you a verbatim account of my activities. Of course, you’ll want to omit mention of my more flagrant illegalities, given Mr. Kennedy’s proviso. As you’ll note, I have made substantial progress. And believe me, given the extreme circumstances, I have been very careful.
Kemper read the report. “Extreme circumstances” didn’t quite cover it.
Littell witnessed a homosexual murder. The victim was a Chicago Mob underboss. The killer was a Mob fringe dweller named Lenny Sands.
Sands was now Littell’s snitch. Sands had recently partnered up with a bookie/loan shark named “Mad Sal” D’Onofrio. D’Onofrio shepherded gambling junkets to Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe- Sands was to accompany the groups as their “traveling lounge act.” Sands had keys to mobster “fuck pads.” Littell coerced him into making duplicates and surreptitiously entered three fuck pads to look for evidence. Littell observed and left untouched: weapons, narcotics, and $14,000 in cash-hidden in a golf bag at the fuck pad of one Butch Montrose.
Littell located Tony Iannone’s fuck pad: a garage apartment littered with homosexual paraphernalia. Littell was determined to protect his informant from potential reprisals. Littell disclosed the fuck pad’s location to Chicago Mob members and staked it out to see if they followed up on his anonymous tip. They did: Sam Giancana and two other men broke down the fuck pad door an hour later. They undoubtedly saw Iannone’s homosexual contraband.
Amazing. Fully emblematic of the Ward Littell Trinity: luck, instinct, naive courage.
My ultimate goal is to facilitate a loan seeker “up the ladder” to the Teamsters’ Central States Pension Fund. This loan seeker will be, ideally, my own legally compromised informant. Lenny Sands (and potentially “Mad Sal” D’Onofrio) may prove to be valuable allies in recruiting such an informant. My ideal loan seeker would be a crooked businessman with Organized Crime connections, a man susceptible to physical intimidation and threats of Federal prosecution. Such an informant could help us determine the existence of alternative Pension Fund books contaming hidden, thus illegal, assets. This avenue of approach presents Robert Kennedy with unlimited opportunities at prosecution. If such books do exist, the administrators of the hidden assets will be indictable on numerous counts of Grand Larceny and Federal Tax Fraud. I agree with Mr. Kennedy: this may pmve to be the way to link Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters to the Chicago Mob and break their collective power. If monetary collusion on such a rich and pervasive scale can be proven, heads will roll.
The plan was ambitious and stratospherically risky. Kemper snapped to a possible glitch straight off.
Littell exposed Icepick Tony’s sexual bent. Did he consider all the potential ramifications?
Kemper called the Miami airport and altered his D.C. flight for a Chicago stopover. The move felt sound: if his hunch proved right, he’d need to give Ward a good thrashing.
Dusk came on. Room service brought his standing order up- punctual to the minute.
He sipped Beefeater’s and picked at smoked salmon. Collins Avenue glowed; twinkling lights bracketed the beachfront.
Kemper got a mild glow on. He reprised his moments with the mink woman and thought of a dozen lines he could have used.
Chimes rang. Kemper ran a comb through his hair and opened the door.
John Stanton said, “Hello, Mr. Boyd.”
Kemper ushered him in. Stanton walked around and admired the suite.
“Robert Kennedy treats you well.”
“You’re being disingenuous, Mr. Stanton.”
“I’ll be blunt, then. You grew up wealthy and lost your family. Now you’ve adopted the Kennedys. You’re in the practice of reclaiming your wealth in small increments, and this really is quite a handsome room.”
Kemper smiled. “Would you like a martini?”
“Martinis taste like lighter fluid. I’ve always judged hotels by their wine list.”
“I can send down for whatever you like.”
“I won’t be here long enough.”
“What’s on your mind?”
Stanton pointed to the balcony. “Cuba’s out there.”
“I know that.”
“We think Castro will go Communist. He’s set to come to America in April and offer his friendship, but we think he’ll behave badly and force an official rejection. He’s going to deport some ‘politically undesirable’ Cubans soon, and they’ll be granted asylum here in Florida. We need men to train them and form them into an anti-Castro resistance. The pay is two thousand dollars a month, in cash, plus the chance to purchase discount-priced stock in Agency-backed front companies. This is a firm offer, and you have my personal assurance that we won’t let your Agency work interfere with your other affiliations.”
Stanton stepped out on the balcony. Kemper followed him up to the railing.
“You ‘retired’ from the FBI rather precipitously. You were close to Mr. Hoover, who hates and fears the Kennedy brothers. Post hoc, propter ergo hoc. You were an FBI agent on Tuesday, a prospective pimp for Jack Kennedy on Wednesday, and a McClellan Committee investigator on Thursday. I can follow logical-”
“What’s the standard pay rate for CIA contract recruits?”
“Eight-fifty a month.”
“But my ‘affiliations’ make me a special case?”
“Yes. We know you’re getting close to the Kennedys, and we think Jack Kennedy might be elected President next year. If the Castro problem extends, we’ll need someone to help influence his Cuban policy.”
“As a lobbyist?”
“No. As a very subtle agent provocateur.”
Kemper checked the view. Lights seemed to shimmer way past Cuba.
“I’ll consider your offer.”
Littell ran into the morgue. Kemper called him from the airport and said MEET ME THERE NOW
He called half an hour ago. He didn’t elaborate. He said just those four words and slammed the phone down.
A row of autopsy rooms extended off the foyer. Sheet-covered gurneys blocked the hallway.
Littell pushed through them. Kemper stood by the far wall, next to a row of freezer slabs.
Littell caught his breath. “What the fuck is-?”
Kemper pulled a slab out. The tray held a male Caucasian dead body.
The boy was torture slashed and cigarette burned. His penis was severed and stuffed in his mouth.
Littell recognized him: the kid in Icepick Tony’s nude snapshot.
Kemper grabbed his neck and forced him down close. “This is on you, Ward. You should have destroyed every bit of evidence pointing to Iannone’s known associates before you tipped off those Mob guys. Guilty or not, they had to kill someone, so they decided to kill the boy in the picture you left for them to see.”
Littell jerked backward. He smelled stomach bile and blood and forensic dental abrasive.
Kemper shoved him down closer.
“You’re working for Bobby Kennedy, and I set it up, and Mr. Hoover will destroy me if he finds out You’re damn lucky I decided to check some missing-persons reports, and you had damn well better convince me you won’t fuck up like this again.”
Littell closed his eyes. Tears spilled out. Kemper shoved him in cheek to cheek with the dead boy.
“Meet me at Lenny Sands’ apartment at ten. We’ll shore things up.”
o o o
Work didn’t help.
He tailed Commies and wrote out a surveillance log. His hands shook; his printing was near-illegible.
Helen didn’t help.
He called her just to hear her voice. Her law school chitchat brought him close to screaming.
Court Meade didn’t help.
They met for coffee and exchanged reports. Court told him he looked lousy. Court said his report looked threadbare-like he wasn’t spending much time at the listening post.
He couldn’t say, I’m slacking off because I found a snitch. He couldn’t say, I fucked up and got a boy killed.
Church helped a little.
He lit a candle for the dead boy. He prayed for competence and courage. He cleaned up in the bathroom and remembered something Lenny said: Sal D. was recruiting junketeers at Saint Vibiana’s this evening.
A tavern stop helped.
Soup and crackers settled his stomach. Three rye-and-beers cleared his head.
o o o
Sal and Lenny had the Saint Vib’s rec hall all to themselves. A dozen K of C men took in their pitch.
The group sat at a clump of bingo tables near the stage. The Knights looked like dnmks and wife beaters.
Littell loitered outside a fire exit. He cracked the door to watch and listen.
Sal said, “We leave in two days. Lots of my regulars couldn’t get away from their jobs, so I’m lowering my price to nine-fifty, airfare included. First we go to Lake Tahoe, then Vegas and Gardena, outside L.A. Sinatra’s playing the Cal-Neva Lodge in Tahoe, and you’ll be front row center to catch his show. Now, Lenny Sands, formerly Lenny Sanducci, and a Vegas star in his own right, will give you a Sinatra that out-Sinatras Sinatra. Go, Lenny! Go, paisan!”
Lenny blew smoke rings Sinatra-style. The K of C men clapped. Lenny flicked his cigarette above their heads and glared at them.
“Don’t applaud until I finish! What kind of Rat Pack Auxiliary are you! Dino, go get me a couple of blondes! Sammy, go get me a case of gin and ten cartons of cigarettes or I’ll put your other eye out! Hop to it, Sammy! When the Chicago Knights of Columbus Chapter 384 snaps its fingers, Frank Sinatra jumps!”
The Knights haw-haw-hawed. A nun pushed a broom by the group and never looked up. Lenny sang, “Fly me to the Coast with Big Sal’s junket tour! He’s the swingin’ gambling junket king, so dig his sweet allure! In other words, Vegas beware!”
The Knights applauded. Sal dumped a paper bag out on a table in front of them.
They sifted through the clutter and grabbed knickknacks. Littell saw poker chips, French ticlders, and Playboy rabbit key chains.
Lenny held up a novelty pen shaped like a penis. “Which one of you big-dick gavones wants to be the first one to sign up?”
A line formed. Littell felt his stomach turn over.
He walked to the curb and vomited. The rye and beer burned his throat. He hunched over and puked himself dry.
Some junket men walked past him twirling key chains. A few laughed at him.
Littell braced himself against a lamppost. He saw Sal and Lenny in the rec hall doorway.
Sal backed Lenny into the wall and jabbed at his chest. Lenny mimed a single word: “Okay.”
o o o
The door stood ajar. Littell pushed it all the way open.
Kemper was going through Lenny’s address book. He’d turned on all the living-room lights.
Littell shut the door. “Who let you in?”
“I taught you how to B amp;E, remember?”
Littell shook his head. “I want him to trust me. Another man showing up like this might frighten him.”
Kemper said, “You need to frighten him. Don’t underestimate him just because he’s queer.”
“I saw what he did to Iannone.”
“He panicked, Ward. If he panics again, we could get hurt. I want to establish a certain tone tonight.”
Littell heard footsteps outside the door. There was no time to kill the lights for surprise.
Lenny walked in. He did a broad stage actor’s double-take.
“This is Mr. Boyd. He’s a friend of mine.”
“And you were in the neighborhood, so you thought you’d break in and ask me a few questions.”
“Let’s not go at things this way.”
“What way? You said we’d talk on the phone, and you told me you were in this by yourself.”
Kemper said, “I did have a question.”
Lenny hooked his thumbs through his belt loops. “Then ask it. And help yourself to a drink. Mr. Littell always does.”
Kemper looked amused. “I glanced through your address book, Lenny.”
“I’m not surprised. Mr. Littell always does that, too.”
“You know Jack Kennedy and a lot of Hollywood people.”
“Yes. And I know you and Mr. Littell, which proves I’m not immune to slumming.”
“Who’s this woman Laura Hughes? This address of hers- 881 Fifth Avenue-interests me.”
“Laura interests lots of men.”
“You’re trembling, Lenny. Your whole manner just changed.”
Littell said, “What are you talk-?”
Kemper cut him off. “Is she in her early thirties? Tall, brunette, freckles?”
“That sounds like Laura, yes.”
“I saw Joe Kennedy give her a diamond broach and at least fifty thousand dollars. That looks to me like he’s sleeping with her.”
Lenny laughed. His smile said, Oh, you heathen.
Kemper said, “Tell me about her.”
“No. She’s got nothing to do with the Teamsters’ Pension Fund or anything illegal.”
“You’re reverting, Lenny. You’re not coming off like the hard boy that took out Tony Iannone. You’re starting to sound like a little fairy with a squeaky voice.”
Lenny went instant baritone. “Is this better, Mr. Boyd?”
“Save the wit for your lounge engagements. Who is she?”
“I don’t have to tell you that.”
Kemper smiled. “You’re a homosexual and a murderer. You have no rights. You’re a Federal informant, and the Chicago FBI owns you.”
Littell felt queasy. His heartbeat did funny little things.
Kemper said, “Who is she?”
Lenny came on hard butch. “This is not FBI-approved. If it was there’d be stenographers and paperwork. This is some sort of private thing with you two. And I won’t say a goddamned thing that might hurt Jack Kennedy.”
Kemper pulled out a morgue glossy and forced it on Lenny. Littell saw the dead boy with his mouth stuffed full.
Lenny shuddered. Lenny put on an instant rough-trade face.
“So? So this is supposed to scare me?”
“Giancana did this, Lenny. He thought this man killed Tony Iannone. One word from us, and this will be you.”
Littell grabbed the snapshot. “Let’s hold back a second. You’ve made your point.”
Kemper steered him into the dining room. Kemper pressed him into a cabinet with his fingertips.
“Don’t ever contradict me in front of a suspect.”
“Hit him. Make him afraid of you.”
Littell said, “I can’t. Goddamnit, don’t do this to me.”
“Hit him, or I’ll call Giancana and rat him off right now.”
“No. Come on… please.”
Kemper handed him brass knuckles. Kemper made him lace his fingers in.
“Hit him, Ward. Hit him, or I’ll let Giancana kill him.”
Littell trembled. Kemper slapped him. Littell stumbled over to Lenny and weaved in front of him.
Lenny smiled this preposterous pseudo-tough-guy smile. Littell balled his fist and hit him.
Lenny clipped an end table and went down spitting teeth. Kemper threw a sofa cushion at him.
“Who’s Laura Hughes? Tell me in detail.”
Littell dropped the knucks. His hand throbbed and went numb.
“I said, ‘Who’s Laura Hughes?’”
Lenny nuzzled the cushion. Lenny spat out a chunk of gold bridgework.
“I said, ‘Who’s Laura Hughes?’”
Lenny coughed and cleared his throat. Lenny took a big let’s-get-this-over-with breath.
He said, “She’s Joe Kennedy’s daughter. Her mother’s Gloria Swanson.”
Littell shut his eyes. The Q amp;A made absolutely no-
Kemper said, “Keep going.”
“How far? I’m the only one outside the family who knows.”
Kemper said, “Keep going.”
Lenny took another breath. His lip was split up to his nostrils.
“Mr. Kennedy supports Laura. Laura loves him and hates him. Gloria Swanson hates Mr. Kennedy because he cheated her out of lots of money when he was a movie producer. She disowned Laura years ago, and that’s all the ‘keep going’ I’ve got, goddamn you.”
Littell opened his eyes. Lenny picked up the end table and flopped into a chair.
Kemper twirled the knucks on one fmger. “Where did she get the name Hughes?”
“From Howard Hughes. Mr. Kennedy hates Hughes, so Laura took the name to annoy him.”
Littell closed his eyes. He started seeing things he wasn’t conjuring up.
“Ask Mr. Sands a question, Ward.”
An image flickered out-Lenny with his phallus-shaped pen.
“Ward, open your eyes and ask Mr. Sands a-”
Littell opened his eyes and took his glasses off. The room went soft and blurry.
“I saw you arguing with Mad Sal outside the church. What was that about?’
Lenny worked a tooth loose. “I tried to quit the junket gig.”
“Because Sal’s poison. Because he’s poison like you are.”
He sounded I’m-a-snitch-now resigned.
“But he didn’t let you quit?”
“No. I told him I’d work with him for six months tops, if he’s still…”
Kemper twirled his knucks. “If he’s still what?”
“Still fucking alive.”
He sounded calm. He sounded like an actor who just figured out his role.
“Why wouldn’t he be?”
“Because he’s a degenerate gambler. Because he owes Sam G. twelve grand, and a contract’s going out if he doesn’t pay it back.”
Littell put his glasses on. “I want you to stick with Sal, and let me worry about his debts.”
Lenny wiped his mouth on the cushion. That one knuck shot cut him a brand-new harelip.
Kemper said, “Answer Mr. Littell.”
Lenny said, “Oh yes, yes, Mr. Littell, sir”-arch-ugly-faggot inflected.
Kemper slipped the knucks into his waistband. “Don’t tell Laura Hughes about this. And don’t tell anybody about our arrangement.”
Lenny stood up, knock-kneed. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
Kemper winked. “You’ve got panache, son. And I know a magazine man in L.A. who could use an insider like you.”
Lenny pushed his lip flaps together. Littell sent up a prayer: Please let me sleep through this night with no dreams.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 1/16/59. Official FBI telephone call transcript: “Recorded at the Director’s Request”! “Classified Confidential 1-A: Director’s Eyes Only.” Speaking: Director Hoover, Special Agent Kemper Boyd.
JEH: Good morning, Mr. Boyd.
KB: Sir, good morning.
JRH: We have an excellent connection. Are you nearby?
KB: I’m at a restaurant on Northeast “I” Street.
JEH: I see. The Committee offices are close by, so I Imagine you’re hard at work for Little Brother.
KB: I am, Sir. At least cosmetically.
JEH: Update me, please.
KB: I convinced Little Brother to send me back to Miami. I told him that I could depose some Sun Valley land fraud witnesses, and in fact I did bring back some inconclusive depositions.
KB: My real motive in traveling to Florida was to accrue information for you on the Gretzler and Kirpaski matters. You’ll be pleased to know that I checked in with both the Miami and Lake Weir Police Departments and learned that both cases have been moved to open file status. I consider that a tacit admission that both homicides win remain unsolved.
JEH: Excellent. Now update me on the brothers.
KB: The Committee’s labor racketeering mandate expires in ninety days. The paperwork forwarding process is now in the compilation stage, and I’ll be sending you carbons of every piece of salient memoranda sent to our target grand juries. And, again, Sir, my opinion is that Jimmy Hoffa is legally inviolate at this time.
KB: Big Brother has been calling legitimate labor leaders allied with the Democratic Party, to assure them that the trouble that Little Brother has stirred up with Hoffa does not mean that he is anti-labor overall. My understanding is that he will announce his candidacy in early January of next year.
JEH: And you remain certain that the brothers do not suspect the Bureau of collusion in the Darleen Shoftel matter?
KB: I’m certain, Sir. Pete Bondurant’s girlfriend Informed Little Brother of the Hush-Hush piece, and Ward Littell exposed both our primary bug and Bondurant’s secondary bug independent of her.
JEH: I heard the Brothers’ father made Howard Hughes eat crow.
KB: That’s true, Sir.
JEH: Hush-Hush has been lackluster lately. The advance peeks that Mn Hughes has been sending me have been quite tame.
KB: I’ve been staying in touch with Pete Bondurant on general principles, and I think I’ve found him a Hollywood-connected man he could use as a stringer.
JEH: If my bedtime reading improves, I’ll know you’ve succeeded.
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: We have Ward Littell to thank for that entire Big Brother snafu.
KB: I passed through Chicago and saw Littell two days ago, Sir.
KB: I had initially thought that his THP expulsion might push him toward taking antiMob actions on his own, so I decided to check up on him.
KB: And my concerns were groundless. Littell seems to be suffering his Red Squad work in silence, and the only change of habit that I could detect was that he’s begun an affair with Tom Agee’s daughter Helen.
JEH: An affair of a sexual nature?
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: Is the girl of age?
KB: She’s twenty-one, Sir.
JEH: I want you to keep an eye on Littell.
KB: I will, Sir. And while I have you, could I bring up a tangential matter?
KB: It involves the Cuban political situation.
KB: In the course of my Florida visits I’ve met several pro-Batista and pro-Castro Cuban refugees. Now, apparently Castro is going Communist. I’ve learned that undesirables of varying political stripes will be expelled from Cuba and granted asylum in the U.S., with most of them settling in Miami. Would you like information on them?
JEH: Do you have an information source?
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: But you’d rather not reveal it?
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: I hope they’re paying you.
KB: It’s an ambiguous situation, Sir.
JEH: You’re an ambiguous man. And yes, any and all Cuban emigre intelligence would be appreciated. Have you anything to add? I’m due at a meeting.
KB: One last thing, Sir. Did you know that the brothers’ father had an illegitimate daughter with Gloria Swanson?
JEH: No, I did not know that. You’re certain?
KB: Reasonably. Should I follow up on it?
JEH: Yes. But avoid any personal entanglements that might upset your incursion.
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: Forewarned is forearmed. You have a tendency to adopt people, such as the morally-impaired Ward Littell. Don’t extend that tendency toward the Kennedys. I suspect that their powers of seduction exceed even your own.
KB: I’ll be careful, Sir.
JEH: Good day, Mr. Boyd.
KB: Good day, Sir.
(Los Angeles, 1/18/59)
Dick Steisel said, “If Mr. Hughes is so tight with J. Edgar Hoover, have him call off the goddamn process servers.”
Pete scoped out his office. The client photos were boffo- Hughes shared a wall with some South American dictators and bongo player Preston Epps.
“He won’t ask Hoover for favors. He figures he hasn’t kissed his ass enough yet.”
“He can’t keep dodging subpoenas forever. He should simply divest TWA, earn his three or four hundred million and get on to his next conquest.”
Pete rocked his chair and put his feet up on Steisel’s desk. “He doesn’t see things that way.”
“And how do you see things?”
“The way he pays me to.”
“Which means, in this instance?”
“Which means I’m going to call Central Casting, bag a halfdozen actors and have them made up as Mr. Hughes, then send them out in Hughes Aircraft limos. I’m going to tell them to hit some night spots, throw some cash around and talk up their travel plans. Timbuktu, Nairobi-who gives a shit? It’ll buy us some time.”
Steisel sifted through desk clutter. “TWA aside, you should know that most of the Hush-Hush articles you’ve sent over for vetting are libelous. Here’s an example from that Spade Cooley piece. ‘Does Ella Mae Cooley have “Everlast” stamped across her chest? She should, because Spade’s been bopping bluegrass ballads on her already dangerously dented decolletage! It seems that Ella Mae told Spade she wanted to join a free love cult! Spade responded with fiddle-honed fisticuffs, and now Ella Mae has been sporting brutally black-and-blue blistered bosomage.’ You see Pete, there’s a no loophole rhetoric or-”
Steisel moaned and droned. Pete shut him out and daydreamed.
Kemper Boyd called him yesterday. He said, “I’ve got you a lead on a magazine stringer. His name’s Lenny Sands, and he’s playing a junket engagement at the Cal-Neva Lodge in Lake Tahoe. Go talk to him-I think he’d be perfect for Hush-Hush. But-he’s tight with Ward Littell, and I know you’ll figure out he’s FBI-connected. And you should also know that Littell has an eyeball witness on the Gretzler job. Mr. Hoover told him to forget about it, but Littell’s the volatile type. I don’t want you to even mention Littell to Lenny.”
Lenny Sands sounded good. The “eyeball witness” line was horseshit.
Pete said, “I’ll go see Sands. But let’s talk turkey about something else, too.”
“Yeah, Cuba. I’m starting to think it’s a gravy train for us lawenforcement retirees.”
“You’re right. And I’m thinking of buying in myself.”
“I want in. Howard Hughes is driving me nuts.”
“Do something nice, then. Do something John Stanton would like.”
“Look me up in the Washington, D.C. white pages, and send me some goodies.”
Steisel jerked him out of his daydream. “Get these college kids to insert ‘alleged’ and ‘supposed,’ and make the pieces more hypothetical. Pete, are you listening to me?”
Pete said, “Dick, I’ll see you. I’ve got things to do.”
o o o
He drove to a pay phone and dialed favors. He called a cop buddy, Mickey Cohen, and Fred Otash, “Private Eye to the Stars.” They said they could glom some “goodies,” with D.C. delivery guaranteed pronto.
Pete called Spade Cooley. He said, I just kiboshed a new smear on you. Grateful Spade said, “What can I do for you?”
Pete said, I need six girls from your band. Have them meet me at Central Casting in an hour.
Spade said, Yes, Big-Daddy-O!
Pete called Central Casting and Hughes Aircraft. Two clerks promised satisfaction: six Howard Hughes look-alikes and six limousines would be waiting at Central in one hour.
Pete rendezvoused with his shills and paired them off: six Howards, six women, six limos. The Howards got specific instructions: Live it up through to dawn and spread the word that you’re blasting off for Rio!
The limos hauled ass. Spade dropped Pete off at the Burbank airport.
He caught a puddle jumper to Tahoe. The pilot started his downswing right over the Cal-Neva Lodge.
Be good, Lenny.
o o o
The casino featured slots, craps, roulette, blackjack, poker, keno, and the world’s thickest deep-pile carpets. The lobby featured a panoply of jumbo cardboard Frank Sinairas.
Dig that one by the door-somebody drew a dick in Frankie’s mouth.
Dig that tiny cardboard cutout by the bar: “Lenny Sands at the Swingeroo Lounge!”
Somebody yelled, “Pete! Pete the Frenchman!” It had to be somebody Outfit-or somebody suicide prone.
Pete looked around. He saw Johnny Rosselli, waving from a booth just inside the bar enclosure.
He walked over. The booth was all-star: Rosselli, Sam G., Heshie Ryskind, Carlos Marcello.
Rosselli winked. “Frenchman Pete, che se dice?”
“Good, Johnny. You?”
“Зa va, Pete, зa va. You know the boys here? Carlos, Mo and Heshie?”
“Just by reputation.”
Handshakes went around. Pete stayed standing-per Outfit protocol.
Rosselli said, “Pete’s French-Canadian, but he don’t like to be reminded of it.”
Giancana said, “Everybody’s gotta come from somewhere.”
Marcello said, “Except me. I got no fucking birth certificate. I was either born in fucking Tunis, North Africa, or fucking Guatemala. My parents were Sicilian greenhorns with no fucking passports. I shoulda asked them, ‘Hey, where was I born?’ when I had the chance.”
Ryskind said, “Yeah, but I’m a Jew with a finicky prostate. My people came from Russia. And if you don’t think that’s a handicap in this crowd…”
Marcello said, “Pete’s been helping Jimmy out in Miami lately. You know, at the cabstand.”
Roselli said, “And don t think we don’t appreciate it.’
Giancana said, “Cuba has to get worse before it gets better. Now the fucking Beard has ‘nationalized’ our fucking casinos. He’s got Santo T. in custody down there, and he’s costing us hundreds of thousands a day.”
Rosselli said, “It’s like Castro just shoved an atom bomb up the ass of every made guy in America.”
Nobody said, “Sit down.”
Sam G. pointed out a lowlife walking by counting nickels. “D’Onofrio brings these chumps here. They stink up my room and don’t lose enough to compensate. Me and Frank have got 40% of the Lodge between us. This is a top-line room, not a resort for the lunchpall crowd.”
Rosselli laughed. “Your boy Lenny’s working with Sal now.”
Giancana took a bead on the lowlife and pulled a make-believe trigger. “Somebody’s gonna put a new part in Mad Sal D’Onofrio’s hair. Bookies that owe more than they take in are like fucking Communists sucking the welfare tit.”
Rosselli sipped his highball. “So, Pete, what brings you to the Cal-Neva?”
“I’m interviewing Lenny Sands for a job. I thought he might make a good stringer for Hush-Hush.”
Sam G. passed him some play chips. “Here, Frenchman, lose a grand on me. But don’t move Lenny out of Chicago, all right? I like having him around.”
Pete smiled. The “boys” smiled. Get the picture? They’ve tossed you all the crumbs they think you’re worth.
Pete walked. He got caught up in the tail end of a stampede-low rollers heading for the low-rent lounge.
He followed them in. The room was SRO: every table full, latecorners holding up the walls.
Lenny Sands was on stage, backed by a piano and drums.
The keyboard man tickled some blues. Lenny bopped him on the head with his microphone.
“Lew, Lew, Lew. What are we, a bunch of moolies? What are you playing? ‘Pass Me the Watermelon, Mama, ‘Cause My Spareribs are Double-Parked’?”
The audience yukked. Lenny said, “Lew, give me some Frankie.”
Lew Piano laid down an intro. Lenny sang, half Sinatra/half fag falsetto:
“I’ve got you under my skin. I’ve got you, keestered deep inside of me. So deep, my hemorrhoids are riding me. I’ve got you-WHOA!--under my skin.”
The junket chumps howled. Lenny cranked up his lisp:
“I’ve got you, chained to my bed. I’ve got you, and extra K-Y now! So deep, you can’t really say why now! I’ve got you under my skin!”
The geeks yuk-yuk-yukked and tee-hee-heed. Peter Lawford walked in and checked the action-Frank Sinatra’s #1 toady.
The drummer popped a rim shot. Lenny stroked his mike at crotch level.
“You gorgeous he-men from the Chicago Knights of Columbus, I just adore you!”
The audience cheered-
“And I want you to know that all my womanizing and chasing ring-a-ding cooze is just subterfuge to hide my overweening lust for YOU, the men of K of C Chapter 384, you gorgeous hunks of manicotti with your king-sized braciolas that I just can’t wait to sautee and fricassee and take deep into my tantalizing Tetrazzini!”
Lawford looked hot to trot. It was common insider knowledge that he’d kill to suck up to Sinatra.
The junketeers roared. Some clown waved a K of C flag.
“I just love you love you love you! I can’t wait to dress up in drag and invite all of you to sleep over at my Rat Pack slumber party!”
Lawford bolted toward the stage.
Pete tripped him.
Dig the toady’s pratfall-an instant all-time classic.
Frank Sinatra shoved his way into the lounge. The junketeers went stone fucking nuts.
Sam G. intercepted him. Sam G. whispered to him, nice and gentle and FIRM.
Pete caught the gist.
Lenny’s with the Outfit. Lenny’s not a guy you rough up for sport.
Sam was smiling. Sam dug Lenny’s act.
Sinatra about-faced. Ass-kissers surrounded him.
Lenny cranked his lisp waaaaay up. “Frankie, come back! Peter, get up off the floor, you gorgeous nincompoop!”
Lenny Sands was one cute shitbird.
o o o
He slipped the head blackjack dealer a note to forward to Sands. Lenny showed up at the coffee shop, on-the-dot punctual.
Pete said, “Thanks for coming.”
Lenny sat down. “Your note mentioned money. That’s something that always gets my attention.”
A waitress brought them coffee. Jackpot gongs went off-baby slots were bolted to every table.
“Kemper Boyd recommended you. He said you’d be perfect for the job.”
“Are you working for him?”
“No. He’s just an acquaintance.”
Lenny rubbed a scar above his lips. “What is the job exactly?”
“You’d be the stringer for Hush-Hush. You’d be digging up the stories and scandal bits and feeding them to the writers.”
“So I’d be a snitch.”
“Sort of. You keep your nose down in L.A., Chicago and Nevada, and report back.”
“For how much?”
“A grand a month, cash.”
“Movie-star dirt, that’s what you want. You want the skank on entertainment people.”
“Right. And liberal-type politicians.”
Lenny poured cream in his coffee. “I’ve got no beef with that, except for the Kennedys. Bobby I can do without, but Jack I like.”
“You were pretty tough on Sinatra. He’s pals with Jack, isn’t he?”
“He pimps for Jack and brown-noses the whole family. Peter Lawford’s married to one of Jack’s sisters, and he’s Frank’s brown-nose contact. Jack thinks Frank’s good for chuckles and not much else, and you didn’t hear any of this from me.”
Pete sipped coffee. “Tell me more.”
“No, you ask.”
“Okay. I’m on the Sunset Strip and I want to get laid for a C-note. What do I do?”
“You see Mel, the parking-lot man at Dino’s Lodge. For a dime, he’ll send you to a pad on Havenhurst and Fountain.”
“Suppose I want nigger stuff?”
“Go to the drive-in at Washington and La Brea and talk to the colored carhops.”
“Suppose I dig boys?”
Lenny flinched. Pete said, “I know you hate fags, but answer the question.”
“Shit, I don’t… wait… the doorman at the Largo runs a string of male prosties.”
“Good. Now, what’s the story on Mickey Cohen’s sex life?”
Lenny smiled. “It’s cosmetic. He doesn’t really dig cooze, but he likes to be seen with beautiful women. His current quasigirlfriend is named Sandy Hashhagen. Sometimes he goes out with Candy Barr and Liz Renay.”
“Who clipped Tony Trombino and Tony Brancato?”
“Either Jimmy Frattiano or a cop named Dave Klein.”
“Who’s got the biggest dick in Hollywood?”
“Steve Cochran or John Ireland.”
“What’s Spade Cooley do for kicks?”
“Pop bennies and beat up his wife.”
“Who’d Ava Gardner cheat on Sinatra with?”
“Who do you see for a quick abortion?”
“I’d go see Freddy Otash.”
“Muff diver supreme.”
“Drinking herself to death at a cheap pad in West L.A.”
“Pussy hound with jailbait tendencies.”
“On the skids in Palm Springs.”
“Senator William F. Knowland?”
“Sergeant John O’Grady?”
“LAPD guy known for planting dope on jazz musicians.”
“Frigid. I popped her once myself, and I almost froze my shvantze off.”
Pete laughed. “Me?”
Lenny grinned. “Shakedown king. Pimp. Killer. And in case you’re wondering, I’m much too smart to ever fuck with you.”
Pete said, “You’ve got the job.”
They shook hands.
Mad Sal D. walked in the door, waving two cups spilling nickels.
(Washington, D.C., 1/20/59)
United Parcel dropped off three big boxes. Kemper carried them into his kitchen and opened them.
Bondurant wrapped the stuff in oilcloth. Bondurant understood the concept of “goodies.”
Bondurant sent him two submachine guns, two hand grenades and nine silencer-fitted.45 automatics.
Bondurant included a succinct, unsigned note:
“Your move and Stanton’s.”
The machine guns came with fully loaded drums and a maintenance manual. The.45s fit his shoulder rig perfectly.
Kemper strapped one on and drove to the airport. He caught the 1:00 p.m. New York shuttle with time to spare.
o o o
881 Fifth Avenue was a high-line Tudor fortress. Kemper ducked past the doorman and pushed the “L. Hughes” lobby buzzer.
A woman’s voice came on the intercom. “Take the second lift on the left, please. You can leave the groceries in the foyer.”
He elevatored up twelve floors. The doors opened straight into an apartment vestibule.
The vestibule was the size of his living room. The mink woman was leaning against a full-sized Greek column, wearing a tartan robe and slippers.
Her hair was tied back. She was juuust starting to smile.
“I remember you from the Kennedys’ party. Jack said you’re one of Bobby’s policemen.”
“My name’s Kemper Boyd, Miss Hughes.”
“From Lexington, Kentucky?”
“You’re close. Nashville, Tennessee.”
She folded her arms. “You heard me give the cab driver my address, and you described me to the doorman downstairs. He told you my name, and you rang my bell.”
“You saw me give that vulgar diamond broach away. Any man as elegantly dressed as you are would appreciate a gesture like that.”
“Only a well-taken-care-of woman would make that kind of gesture.”
She shook her head. “That’s not a very sharp perception.”
Kemper stepped toward her. “Then let’s try this. You did it because you knew you had an audience. It was a Kennedy kind of thing to do, and I’m not criticizing you for it.”
Laura cinched her robe. “Don’t get presumptuous with the Kennedys. Don’t even talk presumptuously about them, because when you least expect it they’ll cut you off at the knees.”
“You’ve seen it happen?”
“Yes, I have.”
“Did it happen to you?”
“Because you can’t expel what you haven’t admitted?”
Laura pulled out a cigarette case. “I started smoking because most of the sisters did. They had cases like this, so Mr. Kennedy gave me one.”
“Or Joe. Or Uncle Joe.”
Kemper smiled. “My father went broke and killed himself. He willed me ninety-one dollars and the gun he did it with.”
“Uncle Joe will leave me a good deal more than that.”
“What’s the current stipend?”
“A hundred thousand dollars a year and expenses.”
“Did you decorate this apartment to resemble the Kennedys’ suite at the Carlyle?”
“It’s beautiful. Sometimes I think I could live in hotel suites forever.”
She walked away from him. She turned on her heels and disappeared down a museum-width hallway.
Kemper let five minutes pass. The apartment was huge and quiet-he couldn’t get his bearings.
He worked his way left and got lost. Three corridors led him back to the same pantry; the four entrances to the dining room had him spinning in circles. He hit intersecting hallways, a library, wings-
Traffic sounds straightened him out He heard foot scuffs on the terrace behind the grand piano.
He walked over. The terrace would swallow up his kitchen at least twice.
Laura was leaning against the railing. A breeze ruffled her robe.
She said, “Did Jack tell you?”
“No. I figured it out myself.”
“You’re lying. The Kennedys and a friend of mine in Chicago are the only ones who know. Did Mr. Hoover tell you? Bobby says he doesn’t know, but I’ve never believed him.”
Kemper shook his head. “Mr. Hoover doesn’t know. Lenny Sands told a Chicago FBI man who’s a friend of mine.”
Laura lit a cigarette. Kemper cupped his hands around the match.
“I never thought Lenny would tell a soul.”
“He didn’t have much choice. If it’s any consol-”
“No, I don’t want to know. Lenny knows bad people, and bad people can make you say things you don’t want to.”
Kemper touched her arm. “Please don’t tell Lenny you met me.”
“Why, Mr. Boyd?”
“Because he’s embarrassingly well connected.”
“No, you don’t understand. I’m asking you what you’re doing here.”
“I saw you at Joe Kennedy’s party. I’m sure you can fill in the rest yourself.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I couldn’t very well ask Jack or Bobby for your number.”
“Because Uncle Joe wouldn’t approve, and Bobby doesn’t entirely trust me.”
“Because I’m embarrassingly well connected.”
Laura shivered. Kemper draped his suitcoat around her shoulders.
She pointed to his holster. “Bobby told me the McClellan people don’t carry guns.”
“I’m off duty.”
“Did you think I’d be so bored and indolent that you could just ring my bell and seduce me?”
“No, I thought I’d buy you dinner first.”
Laura laughed and coughed smoke. “Is Kemper your mother’s maiden name?” -
“Is she alive?”
“She died in a nursing home in ‘49.”
“What did you do with the gun your father left you?”
“I sold it to a classmate in law school.”
“Does he carry it?”
“He died on Iwo Jima.”
Laura dropped her cigarette in a coffee cup. “I know so many orphans.”
“So do I. You’re sort of one your-”
“No. That’s not true. You’re just saying it to make points with me.”
“I don’t think it’s much of a stretch.”
She snuggled into his suitcoat. The sleeves flopped in the wind.
“Repartee is one thing, Mr. Boyd, and the truth is another. The truth is my robber-baron father fucked my movie-star mother and got her pregnant. My movie-star mother had already had three abortions and didn’t want to risk a fourth. My movie-star mom disowned me, but my father enjoys flaunting me in front of his legitimate family once a year. The boys like me because I’m provocative, and they think I’m nifty because they can’t fuck me, because I’m their half-sister. The girls hate me because I’m a coded message from their father that says men can fuck around, but women can’t. Do you get the picture, Mr. Boyd? I have a family. My father put me through boarding school and several colleges. My father supports me. My father informed his family of my existence when Jack brought me home from a Harvard alumni mixer as the unwitting pawn in a rather vicious ploy I had initiated to assert myself into the family. Imagine his surprise when Father said, ‘Jack, you can’t fuck her, she’s your half-sister.’ Little Bobby, twenty and Calvinistic, overheard the conversation and spread the word. My father figured what the hell, the word’s out, and invited me to stay for dinner. Mrs. Kennedy had a rather traumatic reaction to all of this. Our ‘embarrassingly well connected’ friend Lenny Sands was giving Jack speech lessons for his first congressional campaign, and was at the house for dinner. He stopped Rose from making a scene, and we’ve been sharing secrets ever since. I have a family, Mr. Boyd. My father is evil and grasping and ruthless and willing to destroy anybody who so much as looks the wrong way at the children he publicly acknowledges. And I hate everything about him except the money he gives me and the fact that he would probably destroy anybody who tried to hurt me as well.”
Car horns bleeped long and shrill. Laura pointed down at a line of taxis. “They perch there like vultures. They always make the most noise when I’m playing Rachmaninoff.”
Kemper unholstered his piece. He honed in on a sign marked Yellow Cabs Only.
He braced his arm on the railing and fired. Two shots sheared the sign off the signpost. The silencer went thwack-Pete was a good ordnance supplier.
Laura whooped. Cabbies gestured up, spooked and bewildered.
Kemper said, “I like your hair.”
Laura untied it. The wind made it dance.
o o o
He told her how the Boyd fortune evaporated. She told him how she flunked out of Juilliard and flopped as a socialite.
She called herself a musical dilettante. He called himself an ambitious cop. She recorded Chopin on a vanity label. He sent Christmas cards to car thieves he arrested.
He said he loved Jack but couldn’t stand Bobby. She called Bobby deep Beethoven and Jack Mozart most glib. She called Lenny Sands her one true friend and didn’t mention his betrayal. He said his daughter, Claire, shared all his secrets.
Devil’s Advocate snapped on automatically. He knew exactly what to say and what to omit.
He called Mr. Hoover a vindictive old queen. He portrayed himself as a liberal pragmatist hitched to the Kennedy star.
She revived the orphanhood theme. He described the threedaughter combine.
Susan Littell was judgmental and shrill. Helen Agee was courageous and impetuous. His Claire was too close to know just yet.
He told her about his friendship with Ward. He said he wanted a younger brother for keeps-and the Bureau gave him one. He said Ward worshiped Bobby. She said Bobby sensed that Uncle Joe was evil and chased gangsters to compensate for his patrimony.
He hinted at his own lost brother. He said the loss made him push Ward in odd ways.
They talked themselves exhausted. Laura called “21” and had dinner sent up. The chateaubriand and wine made her drowsy.
They left it unspoken.
Not tonight-next time.
o o o
Laura fell asleep. Kemper walked through the apartment.
Two circuits taught him the layout. Laura told him the maid needed a map. The dining room could feed a small army.
He called the Agency’s Miami Ops number. John Stanton picked up immediately.
“It’s Kemper Boyd. I’m calling to accept your offer.”
“I’m very pleased to hear that I’ll be in touch, Mr. Boyd. We’ll have lots to discuss.”
“Good night, then.”
Kemper walked back to the drawing room. He left the terrace curtains open-skyscrapers across the park threw light on Laura.
He watched her sleep.
Lenny’s spare fuck-pad key unlocked the door. Littell hacked the jamb down to the bolt to fake a forensically valid burglar entry.
He broke the blade off his pen knife. The B amp;E shakes had him hacking too hard.
His trial break-in taught him the floor plan. He knew where everything was.
Littell shut the door and went straight for the golf bag. The $14,000 was still tucked inside the ball pocket.
He put his gloves on. He allotted seven minutes for cosmetic thievery.
He unplugged the hi-fl.
He emptied drawers and ransacked the medicine cabinet.
He dumped a TV a toaster and the golf bag by the door.
It looked like a classic junkie-pad boost Butch Montrose would never suspect anything else.
Kemper Boyd always said PROTECT YOUR INFORMANTS.
He pocketed the money. He carried the swag to his car, drove it to the lake and dumped it in a garbage-strewn tide pool.
o o o
Littell got home late. Helen was asleep on his side of the bed.
Her side was cold. Sleep wouldn’t come-he kept replaying the break-in for errors.
He drifted off around dawn. He dreamed he was choking on a dildo.
o o o
He woke up late. Helen left him a note.
School bodes. What time did you get home? For a (dismayingly) liberal FBI man you certainly are a zealous Communist chaser. What do Communists do at midnight?
Love, love, love,
Littell forced down coffee and toast. He wrote his note on plain bond paper.
Sam Giancana has issued a contract on you. You will be killed unless you repay the $12,000 you owe him. I have a way for you to avoid this. Meet me this afternoon at 4:00. The Kollege KIub, 1281 58th, Hyde Park.
Littell put the note in an envelope and added five hundred dollars. Lenny said the junket tour had concluded-Sal should be back at home.
Kemper Boyd always said SEDUCE YOUR INFORMANTS WITH MONEY.
Littell called the Speedy-King Messenger Service. The dispatcher said he’d send a courier right over.
o o o
Mad Sal was prompt Littell pushed his rye and beer aside.
They had the whole row of tables to themselves. The college kids at the bar wouldn’t be able to hear them.
Sal sat down across from him. His flab rolls jiggled and hiked his shirt up over his belly button.
He said, “So?”
Littell pulled his gun and held it in his lap. The table covered him.
“So what did you do with that five hundred?”
Sal picked his nose. “I got down on the Blackhawks versus the Canadiens. Ten o’clock tonight that five hundred is a thousand.”
“You owe Giancana eleven thousand more than that.”
“So who the fuck told you?”
“A reliable source.”
“You mean some Fed snitch cocksucker. You’re a Fed, right? You’re too candy-ass looking to be anything else, and if you was CPD or the Cook County Sheriff’s, I’d’ve bought you off by now, and I’d be fucking your wife and cornholing your snotnose little boy while you was off at work.”
“You owe Giancana twelve thousand dollars that you don’t have. He’s going to kill you.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“You killed a colored boy named Maurice Theodore Wilkins.”
“That accusation is stale bread. It is fucking rebop you got out of some file.”
“I just turned an eyeball witness.”
Sal dug into his ears with a paper clip. “That is horse pucky. Feds don’t investigate nigger homicides, and a little birdie told me that that kid was killed by an unknown assailant in the basement of the church rectory he stole from. The birdie said the assailant waited for the priests to go to a ball game, and then he cut the nigger boy up with a chainsaw after he made the nigger boy blow him. The birdie said there was lots of blood, and the assailant took care of the stink with altar wine.”
Kemper Boyd always said NEVER SHOW FEAR OR DISGUST.
Littell laid a thousand dollars on the table. “I’m prepared to pay off your debt. In two or three installments, so Giancana won’t suspect anything.”
Sal grabbed the money. “So I take it, so I don’t take it. For all I know, Mo might decide to whack me ‘cause he’s jealous of my good looks.”
Littell cocked his gun. “Put the money down.”
Sal did it. “So?”
“So are you interested?”
“So if I’m not?”
“So Giancana clips you. So I put out the word that you killed Tony Iannone. You’ve heard the rumors-Tony got whacked outside a homo joint. Sal, you’re an open book. Jesus, ‘blow’ and ‘cornhole.’ I think you developed a few habits in Joliet.”
Sal ogled the cash. Sal smelled like tobacco sweat and Aqua Velva lotion.
“You’re a loan shark, Sal. What I’m asking for won’t be too far out of line.”
“So I want to get at the Teamsters’ Pension Fund. I want you to help me push somebody up the ladder. I’ll find a man with a pedigree looking for a loan, and you help me set him up with Sam and the Fund. It’s that simple. And I’m not asking you to snitch anybody.”
Sal ogled the money.
Sal popped sweat.
Littell dropped three thousand dollars on the pile.
Sal said, “Okay.”
Littell said, “Take it to Giancana. Don’t gamble with it.”
Sal gave him the bah-fungoo sign. “Stow the lecture. And remember I fucked your mother, which makes me your daddy.”
Littell stood up and roundhoused his revolver. Mad Sal caught the barrel square in the teeth.
Kemper Boyd always said COW YOUR INFORMANTS.
Sal coughed up blood and gold fillings. Some kids at the bar watched the whole thing, bug-eyed.
Littell stared them down.
The boat was late.
U.S. Customs agents crowded the dock. The U.S. Health Service had a tent pitched in the parking lot behind it.
The refugees would be X-rayed and blood-tested. The contagious ones would be shipped to a state hospital outside Pensacola.
Stanton checked his passenger manifest. “One of our on-island contacts leaked us a list. All the deportees are male.”
Waves hit the pilings. Guy Banister flicked a cigarette butt at them.
“Which implies that they’re criminals. Castro’s getting rid of plain old ‘undesirables’ under the ‘politically undesirable’ blanket.”
Debriefing huts flanked the dock. U.S. Border Patrol marksmen crouched behind them. They had first-hint-of-trouble/shoot-to-kill orders.
Kemper stood above the front pilings. Waves smashed up and sprayed his trouser legs.
His specific job was to interview Teofilio Paez, the ex-security boss for the United Fruit Company. A CIA briefing pouch defined UF: “America’s largest, most long-established and profitable inCuba corporation and the largest on-island employer of unskilled and semi-skilled Cuban National workers. A long-standing bastion of Cuban anti-Communism. Cuban National security aides, working for the company, have long been effective in recruiting antiCommunist youth eager to infiltrate left-wing worker’s groups and Cuban educational institutions.”
Banister and Stanton watched the skyline. Kemper stepped into a breeze and let it ruffle his hair.
He had ten days in as a contract agent-two briefings at Langley and this. He had ten days in with Laura Hughes-the La Guardia shuttle made trysting easy.
Laura felt legitimate. Laura went crazy when he touched her. Laura said brilliant things and played Chopin con brio.
Laura was a Kennedy. Laura spun Kennedy tales with great verve.
He hid those stories from Mr. Hoover.
It felt like near-loyalty. It felt near-poignant-and Hoovercompromised.
He needed Mr. Hoover. He continued to feed him phone reports, but limited them to McClellan Committee intelligence.
He rented a suite at the St. Regis Hotel, not far from Laura’s apartment The monthly rate was brutal.
Manhattan got in your blood. His three paychecks totaled fiftynine thousand a year-nowhere near enough to sustain the life he wanted.
Bobby kept him busy with boring Committee paperwork. Jack had dropped hints that the family might have post-Committee work for him. His most likely position would be campaign security boss.
Jack enjoyed having him around. Bobby continued to vaguely distrust him.
Bobby wasn’t up for grabs-and Ward Littell knew it.
He talked to Ward twice a week. Ward was ballyhooing his new snitch-a bookie/loan shark named Sal D’Onofrio.
Cautious Ward said he had Mad Sal cowed. Angry Ward said Lenny Sands was now working for Pete Bondurant.
Angry Ward knew that he set it up.
Ward sent him intelligence reports. He edited out the illegalities and forwarded them to Bobby Kennedy. Bobby knew Littell solely as “The Phantom.” Bobby prayed for him and marveled at his courage.
Hopefully, that courage was tinged with circumspection. Hopefully, that boy on the morgue slab taught Ward a few things.
Ward was adaptable and willing to listen. Ward was another orphan-raised in Jesuit foster homes.
Ward had good instincts. Ward believed that “alternative” Pension Fund books existed.
Lenny Sands thought the books were administered by a Mob elder statesman. He’d heard that cash was paid for loan referrals that resulted in large profits.
Littell might be stalking big money. It was potential knowledge to hide from Bobby.
He did hide it. He cut every Fund reference from the Phantom’s reports.
Littell was malleable for a zealot The Big Question was this: Could his covert work be hidden from Mr. Hoover?
A dark speck bobbed on the water. Banister held up binoculars. “They don’t look wholesome. There’s a crap game going on at the back of the barge.”
Customs men hit the dock. They packed revolvers, billy clubs and shackle chains. -
Stanton showed Kemper a photograph. “This is Paez. We’ll grab him right off, so Customs can’t requisition him.”
Paez looked like a skinny Xavier Cugat. Banister said, “I can see him now. He’s up front, and he’s cut and bruised.”
Stanton winced. “Castro hates United Fruit. Our propaganda section picked up a polemic he wrote on it nine months ago. It was an early indication that he might go Commie.”
Whitecaps pushed the barge in close. The men were kicking and clawing to be first off.
Kemper flicked the safety off his piece. “Where are we detaining them?”
Banister pointed north. “The Agency owns a motel in Boynton Beach. They concocted a cover story about fumigation and evicted all the tenants. We’ll pack these beaners in six to a room and see who we can use.”
The refugees yelled and waved little flags on sticks. Teo Paez was crouched to sprint
The Customs boss yelled, “On ready!”
The barge tapped the dock. Paez jumped off. Kemper and Stanton grabbed him and bear-hugged him.
They picked him up and ran with him. Banister ran interference-”CIA custody! He’s ours!”
The riflemen fired warning shots. The refugees ducked and covered. Customs men grappled the barge in and cinched it to the pilings.
Kemper hustled Paez through the crowd. Stanton ran ahead and unlocked a debriefing hut.
Somebody yelled, “There’s a body on the boat!”
They got their man inside. Banister locked the door. Paez hit the floor and smothered it with kisses.
Cigars fell out of his pockets. Banister picked one up and sniffed the wrapper.
Stanton caught his breath. ‘Welcome to America, Mr. Paez. We’ve heard very good things about you, and we’re very glad you’re here.”
Kemper cracked a window. The dead man passed by on a gurney-blade-punctured from head to toe. Customs agents lined up the exiles-maybe fifty men total.
Banister set up his tape recorder on a table. Stanton said, “You had a death on the boat?”
Paez slumped into a chair. “No. It was a political execution. We surmised that the man had been deported to serve as an antiAmerican spy. Under interrogation he revealed that this was true. We acted accordingly.”
Kemper sat down. “You speak excellent English, Teo.”
“I speak the slow and exaggeratedly formal English of the laboriously self-taught. Native speakers tell me that I sometimes lapse into hilarious malapropisms and mutilations of their language.”
Stanton pulled a chair up. “Would you mind talking with us now? We’ve got a nice apartment ready for you, and Mr. Boyd will drive you there in a little while.”
Paez bowed. “I am at your disposable.”
“Excellent. I’m John Stanton, by the way. And these are my colleagues, Kemper Boyd and Guy Banister.”
Paez shook hands all around. Banister pocketed the rest of the cigars and turned on the tape machine.
“Can we get you anything before we start?”
“No. I would like my first American meal to be a sandwich at Wolfie’s Delicatessen in Miami Beach.”
Kemper smiled. Banister laughed outright. Stanton said, “Teo, is Fidel Castro a Communist?”
Paez nodded. “Yes. Indubitably so. He is a Communist in both thought and practice, and my old network of student informants have told me that airplanes carrying Russian diplomats have flown in to Havana late at night on several occasions recently. My friend Wilfredo Olmos Delsol, who was on the boat with me, has the flight numbers memorized.”
Banister lit a cigarette. “Che Guevara’s been Red since way back.”
“Yes. And Fidel’s brother Raul is a Communisto pig himself. Moreover, he is a hypocriticize. My friend Tomбs Obregуn says that Raul is seffing confiscated heroin to rich drug addicts and hypocriticizingly spewing Communist rhetoric at the same time.”
Kemper checked his custody list. “Tomбs Obregуn was on the boat with you.”
“How would he have information on the Cuban heroin trade?”
“Because, Mr. Boyd, he was involved in the heroin trade himself. You see, my fellow boat passengers are mostly criminal scum. Fidel wanted to be rid of them and foisted them on America in hopes that they would practice their trades on your shores. What he failed to realize was that Communism is a bigger crime than dope peddling or robbery or murder, and that even criminals might possess the patriotic desire to reclaim their homeland.”
Stanton rocked his chair back. “We’ve heard that Castro has taken over the Mafia-owned hotels and casinos.”
“It is true. Fidel calls it ‘nationalization.’ He has stolen the casinos and millions of dollars from the Mafia. Tomбs Obregуn told me that the illustrious American gangster Santo Trafficante Jr. is currently in custody at the Nacional Hotel.”
Banister sighed. “That cocksucker Castro has a death wish. He is fucking with both the United States of America and the Mafia.”
“There is no Mafia, Guy. At least Mr. Hoover has always said so.”
“Kemper, even God can make mistakes.”
Stanton said, “Enough of that. Teo, what’s the status of the American citizens remaining inside Cuba?”
Paez scratched and stretched. “Fidel wants to appear humane. He is coddling the influential Americans still in Cuba and allowing them to see only the alleged good his revolution has done. He is going to release them slowly, to return to America as duped tools to dispense communistic propaganda. And in the meantime, Fidel has burned many of the cane fields of my beloved United Fruit, and has tortured and killed many of my student infonnants under the indictment that they are spies for the ‘imperialisto y fascisto’ La United.”
Stanton checked his watch. “Guy, take Teo over for his medical. Teo, go with Mr. Banister. Mr. Boyd will drive you into Miami in a little while.”
Banister hustled Paez out Kemper watched them walk to the X-ray shack.
Stanton shut the door. “Dump the dead man somewhere, Kemper. I’ll debrief all the personnel who’ve seen him. And don’t rattle Guy’s cage, he can be volatile.”
“I’ve heard. Rumor has it that he was assistant superintendent of the New Orleans Police for about ten minutes, until he got drunk and shot off his gun in a crowded restaurant.”
Stanton smiled. “And rumor has it that you’ve fenced a few hot Corvettes in your day.”
“Touchй. And parenthetically, what did you think of Pete Bondurant’s gun donation?”
“I was impressed. We’re thinking of making Pete an offer, and I’ll be bringing it up the next time I talk to the deputy director.”
Kemper said, “Pete’s a good man. He’s good at keeping rowdies in line.”
“Yes, he is. Jimmy Hoffa uses him to good effect at that Tiger Kab place. Keep going, Kemper. I can tell that you’ve got your thinking cap on.”
Kemper turned off the tape recorder. “John, you’re going to find that a sizable percentage of those men out there are uncontrollably psychopathic. Your notion of indoctrinating them and training them as potential anti-Castro guerrillas may not work. If you house them with stable Cuban immigrant families and find them work, per your existing plan, you’ll find them reverting to their former criminal predilections as soon as the novelty of being in this country wears off.”
“You’re saying we should screen them more thoroughly.”
“No, I’m saying I should. I’m saying we should extend the detention period at the Agency’s motel, and I should be the one with final authority as to who we recruit.”
Stanton laughed. “May I ask what qualifies you for this?”
Kemper ticked off points on his fingers. “I worked undercover for nine years. I know criminals, and I like them. I infiltrated car theft rings, arrested the members and worked with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in building their cases for prosecution. I understand the need certain criminals have to acquiesce to authority. John, I got so close to some of those car thieves that they insisted on deposing their confessions to me only-the agent who betrayed them and arrested them.”
Stanton whistled-out-of-character for him. “Are you suggesting that you expand your duties and remain with the men you select as their field officer? That seems unrealistic to me, given your other entanglements.”
Kemper slapped the table. “No. I’m strongly proposing Pete Bondurant for that job. What I’m saying is this: A hardcore criminal contingent, properly indoctrinated and supervised, could be very effective. Let’s assume that the Castro problem extends. I think that even at this early date, it’s safe to assume that the Agency will have a large pool of future deportees and legally emigrated Cubans to choose from. Let’s make this first cadre an elite one. It’s ours, John. Let’s make it the best.”
Stanton tapped his chin. “Mr. Dulles was ready to request green cards for all the men. He’d be pleased to know that we’re being so selective early on. He hates begging the INS for favors.”
Kemper put a hand up. “Don’t deport the men we reject Banister knows some Cubans in New Orleans, doesn’t he?”
“Yes. There’s a large Batistaite community there.”
“Then let Guy have the men we reject Let them find jobs or not find jobs, and have them file for visas on their own in Louisiana.”
“How many men do you think will meet your qualifications?’
“I have no idea.”
Stanton looked eager. “Mr. Dulles has approved the purchase of some cheap south Florida land for our initial training site. I think I could convince him to keep our permanent cadre there small and contained, if you think the men you select can also train future arrivals before we disperse them to the other camps that I’m certain will be springing up.”
Kemper nodded. “I’ll make training skills one of my criteria. Where is this land?”
“It’s on the coast, outside a small town named Blessington.”
“Is it accessible to Miami?”
“I was thinking of the Tiger Kab stand as a recruiting hub.”
Stanton looked almost hot and bothered. “Gangster connotations aside, I think the Tiger Kab place could be utilized. Chuck Rogers is working there already, so we’ve already got an in.”
Kemper said, “John”-very slowly.
Stanton looked dead ecstatic. “The answer to all your suggestions is yes, pending the deputy director’s approval. And bravo, Kemper. You’re more than fulfilling my expectations.”
Kemper stood up and bowed. “Thanks. And I think we’ll make Castro rue the day he sent that boat off.”
“From your mouth to God’s ears. And by the way, what do you think your friend Jack would say about our little freedom barge?’
Kemper laughed. “Jack would say, ‘Where’s the women?’”
o o o
Paez talked a blue streak. Kemper rolled down his window for relief.
They hit Miami at rush hour. Paez kept jabbering. Kemper drummed the dashboard and tried to replay his talk with Stanton.
“…and Mr. Thomas Gordean was my patron at La United. He loved pussy until his fondness for I. W. Harper bonded bourbon inappropriated him. Most of the executives at La United got out after Castro took over, but Mr. Gordean has remained behind. Now, he is drinking even more heavily. He has several thousand shares of United Fruit stock with him, and refuses to leave. He has bought off militiamen to be his private bodyguards and is beginning to sprout the Communist line himself. My great fear is that Mr. Gordean will go Communisto like the Fidel I loved long ago. I fear that he will become a propaganda tool par eccentricity and…”
A light bulb popped on and nearly blinded him. Kemper almost ran his car off the road.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 2/10/59. Hush-Hush stringer report: Lenny Sands to Pete Bondurant.
Here’s a lead I’ve picked up. 1.-Mickey Cohen’s diving for crumbs. He’s got two goons (George Piscatelli amp; Sam Lo Cigno) set to maybe work a sex shakedown racket. I got this from Dick Contino, in Chicago for some accordion soiree. Mickey got the idea when he read Lana Turner’s love letters to Johnny Stompanato after Lana’s daughter shanked Johnny. Johnny used to screw rich widows and had some out-of-work cameraman film it. Mickey’s got some choice film clips. Tell Mr. Hughes he’ll sell them for 3 grand.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 2/24/59. Hush-Hush stringer report: Lenny Sands to Pete Bondurant.
I’ve been on the road with Sal D’Onofrio’s junket gig. Here’s some tidbits. 1.-An the midnight shift cocktail waitresses at the Dunes Hotel in Vegas are hookers. They serviced President Eisenhower’s Secret Service crew when Ike addressed the Nevada State Legislature. 2.-Rock Hudson’s banging the maitre d’ at the Cal-Neva restaurant. 3.-Lenny Brace is hooked on dilaudid. There’s a whole squad of L.A. County Sheriff’s set to entrap him the next time he appear’s on the Strip. 4.-Freddy Otash got Jayne Mansfield an abortion. The daddy was a shvartze dishwasher with a 16” schiong. Peter Lawford’s got pictures of the guy stroking it. I bought one off Freddy 0. I’ll send it to you to forward to Mr. Hughes. 5.-Bing Crosby’s drying out at a Catholic Church retreat for alcoholic priests and nuns outside 29 Palms. Cardinal Speliman visited him there. They went on a bender and drove to L.A. blotto. Spellman sideswiped a oar filled with wetbacks and sent 3 of them to the hospital. Bing bought them off with autographed pictures and a few hundred dollars. Spe]Jman flew back to New York with the DT’s. Bing stayed in L.A. long enough to beat up his wife and then went back to the dry-out farm.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 3/4/59. Personal note: J. Edgar Hoover to Howard Hughes.
I thought I would drop you a line to tell you how much I think Hush-Hush has improved since Mr. Bondurant hired your new stringer. Now there’s a man who would make an excellent FBI agent! I so look forward to the verbatim reports that you send met Should you wish to expedite their delivery, have Mr. Bondurant contact Special Agent Rice at the Los Angeles Office. Many thanks also for the Stompanato home movie and the snapshot of the prodigiously endowed negro. Forewarned is forearmed: you have to know your enemy before you can combat him.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 3/19/59. Personal letter: Kemper Boyd to J. Edgar Hoover. Marked: EXTREMELY CONFIDENTIAL.
Per our previous conversation, I’m passing on salient Kennedy family information gleaned from Laura (Swanson) Hughes.
I’ve gained a degree of Miss Hughes’ confidence in the course of establishing a casual friendship with her. My relationship with the Kennedys gives me credibifity, and Miss Hughes was impressed with the fact that I determined the secret of her parentage without actually broaching the topic to Kennedy family members or her other knowledgeable friends.
Miss Hughes loves to talk about the family, but she only discusses John, Robert, Edward, Rose and the sisters in bland terms. She reserves considerable wrath for Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., cites his ties to Boston mobster Raymond L. S. Patriarca and a retired Chicago “bootlegger-financier” named Jules Schiffrin, and delights in telling stories of Mr. Kennedy’s business rivalry with Howard Hughes. (Miss Hughes adopted the name “Hughes” on her eighteenth birthday, replacing the Kennedy-Swanson proffered “Johnson” in an effort to somehow fluster her father, one of Howard Hughes’ most auspicious enemies.)
Miss Hughes contends that Joseph P. Kennedy’s gangster ties run considerably deeper than the “he was a bootlegger” tag foisted upon him by the press in reference to his highly successful scotch whisky import business preprohibition. She cannot cite specific gangster intimates or recall incidents that she has witnessed or heard of second-hand; nevertheless, her sense of Joseph P. Kennedy as “deeply gangster connected” remains inchoately strong.
I will continue my friendship with Miss Hughes and report all salient Kennedy family intelligence to you.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 4/21/59. Summary report: SA Ward J. Littell to Kemper Boyd. “For editing and forwarding to Robert F. Kennedy.”
Things continue apace here in Chicago. I’m continuing to pursue domestic Communists per my regular Bureau assignment, although they impress me as more pathetic and less dangerous by the day. That said, I’ll move to our real concerns.
Sal D’Onofrio and Lenny Sands continue, unknown to each other, to serve as my informants. Sal, of course, paid back the $12,000 he owed Sam Giancana; Giancana let him off with a beating. Apparently, my theft of Butch Montrose’s $14,000 was never connected to Sal’s $12,000 windfall. I ordered Sal to repay Giancana in three increments and he followed that order. My initial violence directed at Sal proved to be far-sighted: I seem to have the man thoroughly cowed. In the course of casual conversation I told him that I had been a Jesuit seminarian. D’Onofrio, a selfdescribed “Devout Catholic,” was impressed by this and now considers me something of a father-confessor. He has confessed to six torture-murders, and of course I now have those (gruesomely detailed) confessions to hold over him. Aside from the occasional nightmares the confessions have induced, Sal and I seem to be proceeding on an even keel. I told him I would appreciate it if he would refrain from killing and self-destructive gambling while under my stewardship, and so far he seems to be doing that. Sal has provided me with rather tame pieces of anti-Mob intelligence (not worth forwarding to you or Mr. Kennedy) but has not been of help in steering me toward a loan seeker to hoist up the Teamster Pension Fund ladder. This was the sole reason I suborned him as my informant, and he has failed me in that capacity. I suspect that proving the existence of “alternative” Pension Fund books will be a gruesomely attenuated process.
Lenny Sands continues to wear almost as many hats as you. He’s the Hush-Hush stringer (God, what ugly work that must bet), Sal’s junket partner and a general Chicago Mob drone. He says he’s actively engaged in attempting to accrue information on the workings of the Pension Fund and says that he believes the rumor that Sam Giancana pays bonuses for Fund loan referrals is true. He also believes that “alternative,” perhaps coded, Pension Fund books detailing hidden assets do exist. In conclusion, I’ve yet to glean hard information from either Sands or D’Onofrio.
On another front, Mr. Hoover seems to be dodging a potential opportunity to impede Chicago Mob members. Court Meade picked up an (elliptically worded) mention of a robbery on the tailor shop bug. Chicago Mob soldiers Rocco Malvaso and Dewey Di Pasquale apparently clouted $80,000 from a (non-Chicago Mob) high-stakes crap game in Kenilworth. THP agents airteled this Information to Mn Hoover, who told them not to forward it to the applicable agencies for follow-up investigation. My God, that man’s twisted priorities!
I’ll close now. By way of farewell: you continue to amaze me, Kemper. God, you as a CIA man! And with the McClellan Committee disbanded, what will you be doing for the Kennedys?
DOCUMENT INSERT: 4/26/59. Personal note: Kemper Boyd to J. Edgar Hoover. Marked: EXTREMELY CONFIDENTIAL.
I thought I would drop you a line and update you on the Ward Littell front. Littell and I continue to speak regularly on the telephone, and I remain convinced that he is not undertaking overt or covert anti-Mob actions on his own authority.
You mentioned that Littell was spotted near Celano’s Tailor Shop and the Top Hoodlum Program listening post. I subtly queried Littell on this and am satisfied with his answer: that he was meeting SA Court Meade for lunch.
Littell’s personal life seems to revolve around his affair with Helen Agee. This affair has put a strain on his relationship with his daughter, Susan, who disapproves of the liaison. Normally, Helen is in close contact with my daughter Claire, but now that they attend different colleges the frequency of that contact has been curtailed. The Littell-Agee romance seems to be comprised of three or four nights a week of domestic get-togethers. Both retain separate residences, and I think they will continue to do so. I’ll continue to keep an eye on Littell.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 4/30/59. Personal note: Kemper Boyd to Ward J. Littell.
I strongly urge that you stay away from Celano’s Tailor Shop and the listening post area, and avoid being seen with Court Meade. I think I’ve eased some mild suspicions Mr. Hoover might have had, but you cannot be too careful. I strongly advise you to stop your assignment trade with Meade. Destroy this letter immediately.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 5/4/59. Summary report: Kemper Boyd to John Stanton. Marked:CONFIDENTIAL/HAND POUCH DELIVER.
Here’s the update you requested in your last pouch. I apologize for the delay, but as you’ve pointed out, I’m “multiply-employed.”
1.-Yes, the McClellan Committee’s labor racketeering mandate has terminated. No, the Kennedys haven’t offered me a permanent job yet. I think they will soon. There are numerous possibilities, since I’m both an attorney and a cop. Yes, I have discussed Cuba with Jack. He has no opinion on its viability as a 1960 campaign issue yet. He is strongly anti-Communist, despite his reputation as a liberal. I’m optimistic.
2.-I’ve concluded my “auditions” at the Boynton Beach Motel. Today marks the end of the 90-day sequestering period prescribed by Deputy Director Bissell, and tomorrow the bulk of our men will be sent to Louisiana. Guy Banister has a network of legally emigrated Cubans ready to receive them. They will be providing housing, employment and references aimed at procuring them visas. Guy will funnel the men into his own indoctrination/training program.
I have selected four men to form the nucleus of our Blessington Cadre. I consider them to be the best of the fifty-three men on the 2/4/59 “Banana Boat.” Since I am “multiply-employed,” I was not present for much of the sequestering, but capable case officers followed the indoctrination and psychological testing guidelines I set down.
Those guidelines were exceedingly rigorous. I personally supervised polygraph tests to determine the presence of Castro-planted informants. All fifty-three men passed (I think the man they killed on the boat was the ringer). Backup Sodium Pentothal tests were administered. Again, all the men passed.
Interrogations followed. As I suspected, all fifty-three men possessed extensive criminal records inside Cuba. Their offenses included armed robbery, burglary, arson, rape, heroin smuggling, murder and various “political crimes.” One man was revealed to be a deviate who had molested and decapitated six small children in Havana. Another man was a homosexual procurer despised by the other exiles. I deemed both men to be dangerously unstable and terminated them under the indoctrination guidelines set down by the Deputy Director.
All the men were subjected to hard interrogation verging on torture. Most resisted with great courage. All the men were physically drilled and verbally abused in the manner of Marine Corps boot camp. Most responded with the perfect mixture of anger and subservience. The four men I selected are intelligent, violent in a controlled manner, physically skilled, garrulous (they’ll be good Miami recruiters), acquiescent to authority and resoundingly pro-American, antiCommunist and anti-Castro. The men are:
A)-TEOFILIO PAEZ himself. DOB 8/6/21. Former Security Chief for United Fruit. Skilled in weaponry and interrogation techniques. Former Cuban Navy frogman. Adept at political recruitment.
B)-TOMAS OBREGON. DOB 1/17/30. Former Castro guerrilla. Former Havana dope courier and bank robber. Skified in Jujitsu and the manufacture of explosives.
C)-WILFREDO OLMOS DELSOL. DOB 4/9/27. OBREGON’s cousin. Former leftist firebrand turned rightist zealot when his bank accounts were “Nationalized.” Former Cuban Army drill instructor. Small arms weaponry expert.
D)-RAMON GUTIERREZ. DOB 10/24/19. Pilot. Skilled propaganda pamphieteer. Former torturer for Batista’s Secret Police. Expert in counterinsurgency techniques.
3.-I’ve toured the area surrounding the land the Agency purchased for the Blessington campsite. It is impoverished and inhabited by poor white trash, a fair number of them Ku Klux Klan members. I think we need an impressive white man to run the campsite, a man capable of instilling fear in any local rednecks who become perturbed at the notion of Cuban emigres squatting in their bailiwick. I recommend Pete Bondurant. I checked his World War II Marine Corps record and was impressed: he survived fourteen hand-to-hand combat charges on Saipan, won the Navy Cross and rose from buck private to captain via field commission. I strongly urge you to hire Bondurant on an Agency contract basis.
That’s all for now. I’ll be at the St. Regis in New York if you need me.
PS: You were right about Castro’s U.S. trip. He refused to register in a hotel that didn’t admit Negroes, then went up to Harlem and began issuing anti-U.S. statements. His behavior at the U.N. was deplorable. I salute your prescience: the man was “forcing a rejection.”
DOCUMENT INSERT: 5/12/59. Memo: John Stanton to Kemper Boyd.
The Deputy Director has approved the hiring of Pete Bondurant. I have minor qualms, and I want you to send him on a trial run of some sort before we approach him. Use your own discretion.
Helen buttered a slice of toast. “Susan’s slow burn is getting to me. I don’t think we’ve spoken more than three or four times since she heard about us.”
Mad Sal was due to call. Littell pushed his breakfast aside-he had absolutely no appetite.
“I’ve spoken to her exactly twice. Sometimes I think it’s a pure tradeoff-I gained a girlfriend and lost a daughter.”
“You don’t seem too bothered by the loss.”
“Susan feeds on resentment. She’s like her mother that way.”
“Claire told me Kemper’s having an affair with some rich New York City woman, but she won’t divulge details.”
Laura Hughes was one-half Kennedy. Kemper’s Kennedy incursion was now a two-front campaign.
“Ward, you’re very remote this morning.”
“It’s work. It preoccupies me.”
“I’m not so sure.”
It was almost 9:00-7:00 a.m. Gardena time. Sal was an inveterate early-bird gambler.
Helen waved her napkin at him. “Yoo-hoo, Ward! Are you listening to-?”
“What are you saying? What do you mean, ‘I’m not so sure’?”
“I mean your Red Squad work bores and vexes you. You always describe it with contempt, but for months you’ve been engrossed in it.”
“And you’ve been having nightmares and mumbling in Latin in your sleep.”
“And you’re starting to hide out from me when we’re in the same room. You’re starting to act like you’re forty-six and I’m twenty-one, and there’s things you can’t tell me, because I just wouldn’t understand.”
Littell took her hands. Helen pulled them away and knocked a napkin holder off the table.
“Kemper tells Claire everything. I would think that you’d try to emulate him that way.”
“Kemper is Claire’s father. I’m not yours.”
Helen stood up and grabbed her purse. “I’ll think about that on my way home.”
“What happened to your 9:30 class?”
“It’s Saturday, Ward. You’re so ‘preoccupied’ that you don’t know what day it is.”
o o o
Sal called at 9:35. He sounded agitated.
Littell made nice to calm him down. Sal enjoyed sweet talk.
“How’s the tour going?”
“A junket’s a junket. Gardena’s good ‘cause it’s close to L.A., but fuckin’ Jewboy Lenny keeps taking off to dig up shit for Hush-Hush and keeps showing up late for his gigs. You think I should slice him like I did that guy who-”
“Don’t confess over the phone, Sal.”
“Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.”
“Stop it. You know what I’m interested in, so if you have anything, tell me.”
“Okay, okay. I was in Vegas and heard Heshie Ryskind talking. Hesh said the boys are worried on the Cuban front. He said the Outfit paid the Beard a shitload of money in exchange for his word the fuckin’ casinos could keep operating if he took over the fuckin’ country. But now he’s gone Commie and fuckin’ nationalized the casinos. Hesh said the Beard’s got Santo T. in jail in Havana. The boys don’t like the Beard so much these days. Hesh said the Beard’s like the low man in a Mongolian cluster fuck. You know, sooner or later he’ll get really fucked.”
Littell said, “And?”
“And before I left Chicago I talked on the phone to Jack Ruby. Jack had a case of the shorts, so I lent him a wad to unload this one strip club and buy himself another one, the Carousel or something. Jack’s always good on the payback, ‘cause he sharks on the side himself down in Dallas, and-”
“Sal, you’re building up to something. Tell me what it is.”
“Whoa whoa whoa-I thought cops liked that corroboration stuff.”
“Whoa, listen now. Jack corroborated what Heshie said. He said he’d talked to Carlos Marcello and Johnny Rosselli, and they both said the Beard is costing the Outfit seventy-five thousand a day in bank interest on top of their daily fucking casino profit nut. Think about it, Padre. Think of what the Church could do with seventy-five grand a day.”
Littell sighed. “Cuba doesn’t interest me. Did Ruby give you anything on the Pension Fund?”
Mad Sal said, “Weeeeel…”
“Naughty, naughty, Padre. Now say ten Hail Marys and check this. Jack told me he forwarded this Texas oil guy straight to Sam G. for a Pension Fund loan, like maybe a year ago. Now this is a class-A tip, and I deserve a reward for it, and I need some fuckin’ money to cover bets with, because bookies and shylocks with no bankroll get hurt and can’t snitch to candy-ass Fed cocksuckers like you.”
Ruby’s THP designation: bagman/small-time loan shark.
“Padre Padre Padre. Forgive me because I have bet. Forgive me because-”
“I’ll try to get you some money, Sal. if I can find a borrower for you to introduce to Giancana. I’m talking about a direct referral, from you to Sam.”
“Padre, you’re fucking me so hard it hurts.”
“I saved your life, Sal. And this is the only way you’ll ever get another dime out of me.”
“Okay okay okay. Forgive me, Father, for I have taken it up the dirt road from this ex-seminarian Fed who-”
Littell hung up.
o o o
The squadroom was weekend quiet. The agent manning the phone lines ignored him.
Littell cadged the teletype machine and queried the Dallas office.
The reply would take at least ten minutes. He called Midway for flight information-and hit lucky.
A Pan-Am connector departed for Dallas at noon. A return flight would have him home shortly after midnight.
The kickback rolled off the wire: Jacob Rubenstein/AKA Jack Ruby, DOB 3/25/11.
The man had three extortion arrests and no convictions: in ‘47, ‘49 and ‘53.
The man was a suspected pimp and Dallas PD informant.
The man was the subject of a 1956 ASPCA investigation. The man was strongly suspected of sexually molesting dogs. The man was known to occasionally shylock to businessmen and desperate oil wildcatters.
Littell ripped up the teletype. Jack Ruby was worth the trip.
o o o
Airplane hum and three scotches lulled him to sleep. Mad Sal’s confessions merged like a Hit Parade medley.
Sal makes the Negro boy beg. Sal feeds the bet welcher Drano. Sal decapitates two kids who wolf-whistle at a nun.
He’d verified those deaths. All four stood “Unsolved.” All four victims were rectal-raped postmortem.
Littell woke up sweaty. The stewardess handed him a drink unsolicited.
o o o
The Carousel Club was a striptease-row dive. The sign out front featured zaftig girls in bikinis.
Another sign said, Open 6:00 P.M.
Littell parked behind the building and waited. His rental car reeked of recent sex and hair pomade.
A few cops cruised by. One man waved. Litteli caught on: They think you’re a brother cop with your hand in Jack’s pocket.
Ruby drove up at 5:15, alone.
He was a dog fucker and a pimp. This would have to be ugly.
Ruby got out and unlocked the back door. Littell ran up and intercepted him.
He said, “FBI. Let’s see your hands.” He said it in the classic Kemper Boyd style.
Ruby looked skeptical. He was wearing a ridiculous porkpie hat.
Littell said, “Empty your pockets.” Ruby obeyed him. A cash roll, dog biscuits, and a.38 snub-nose hit the ground.
Ruby spat on them. “I know out-of-town shakedowns on an intimate level. I know how to deal with cops in cheap blue suits with liquor breath. Now take what you want and leave me the fuck alone.”
Littell picked up a dog biscuit. “Eat it, Jack.”
Ruby got up on his toes-some kind of lighter-weight boxer’s stance. Littell flashed his gun and handcuffs.
“I want you to eat that dog biscuit.”
“‘Now look, sir.’”
“Now look, sir, who the fuck do you-?”
Littell jammed the biscuit in his mouth. Ruby chewed on it to keep from gagging.
“I’m going to make demands of you, Jack. If you don’t comply, the IRS will audit you, Federal agents will pat-search your customers every night and the Dallas Morning News will expose your sexual bent for dogs.”
Ruby chewed. Ruby sprayed crumbs. Littell kicked his legs out from under him.
Ruby went down on his knees. Littell kicked the door open and kicked him inside.
Ruby tried to stand up. Littell kicked him back down. The room was ten-by-ten and littered with piles of sthptease gowns.
Littell kicked a pile in Ruby’s face. Littell dropped a fresh dog biscuit in his lap.
Ruby put it in his mouth. Ruby made horrible choking sounds.
Littell said, “Answer this question. Have you ever referred borrowers to higher-end loan sharks than yourself?”
Ruby nodded-yes yes yes yes yes.
“Sal D’Onofrio lent you the money to buy this place. Nod if that’s true.”
Ruby nodded. His feet were snagged up in soiled brassieres.
“Sal kills people routinely. Did you know that?”
Ruby nodded. Dogs started barking one room over.
“He tortures people, Jack. He enjoys inflicting pain.”
Ruby thrashed his head. His cheeks bulged like that dead boy on the morgue slab.
“Sal burned a man to death with a blowtorch. The man’s wife came home unexpectedly. Sal shoved a gasoline-soaked rag in her mouth and ignited it. He said she died shooting flames like a dragon.”
Ruby pissed in his pants. Littell saw the lap stain spread.
“Sal wants you to know a few things. One, your debt to him is erased. Two, if you don’t cooperate with me or you rat me to the Outfit or any of your cop friends, he’ll come to Dallas and rape you and kill you. Do you understand?”
Ruby nodded-yes yes yes. Biscuit crumbs shot out of his nostrils.
Kemper Boyd always said DON’T FALTER.
“You’re not to contact Sal. You’re not to know my name. You’re not to tell anyone about this. You’re to contact me every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. at a pay phone in Chicago. I’ll call you and give you the number. Do you understand?”
Ruby nodded-yes yes yes yes yes yes. The dogs keened and clawed at a door just a few feet in front of him.
“I want you to find a high-end borrower for Sal. Somebody Sal can send up to Giancana and the Pension Fund. Nod if you agree to do it, and nod twice if you understand the whole situation.”
Ruby nodded three times.
Littell walked out.
The dog noise went cacophonous.
o o o
His return flight landed at midnight. He drove home, keyed up and exhausted.
Helen’s car was parked out front. She’d be up; she’d be earnest; she’d be eager to reconcile.
Littell drove to a liquor store and bought a half-pint A wino panhandled him. He gave him a dollar-the poor shit looked sort of like Jack Ruby.
It was 1:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Court Meade might be working the listening post.
He called. No one answered. Some THP man was ditching his shift.
Kemper urged him to avoid the post Kemper might not consider one last visit too risky.
Littell drove over and let himself in. The bug transmitter was unplugged, the room was freshly cleaned and tidied up. A note taped to the main console box explained why.
Celano’s Tailor Shop is undergoing fumigation 5/17-5/20/59. All on-premises shifts will be suspended during that time.
Littell cracked his bottle. A few drinks revitalized him and sent his thoughts scattergunning out in a million directions.
Some brain wires crackled and crossed.
Sal needed money. Court Meade was talking up a dice-game heist Mr. Hoover said to let the matter rest.
Littell checked the bug transcript logs. He found a colloquy on the job, filed by SA Russ Davis last month.
4/18/59. 2200 hrs. Alone at tailor shop: Rocco Malvaso amp; Dewey “The Duck” Di Pasquale. What sounded like drinking toasts was obscured by jackhammer and general construction noise outside on Michigan Ave. Two minutes passed while both men apparently used the bathroom. Then this conversation occurred.
Malvaso: Te salud, Duck.
Di Pasquale: Quack, quack. The nice thing is, you know, they can’t report it.
Malvaso: The Kenilworth cops would shit. That is the squarejohn town to end all squarejohn towns. The last time two handsome big dick guys like us took down eighty grand in a crap game there was the twelfth of fucking never.
Di Pasquale: Quack, quack. I say they’re independent guys who had it coming. I say if you’re not mobbed-up with Momo you’re duck shit. Hey, we wore masks and disguised our voices. To boot, those Indy cocksuckers don’t know we’re connected. I felt like Super Duck. I’m thinking I should get a Super Duck costume and wear it the next time I take my kids to Disneyland.
Malvaso: Quack, fucking quack, you web-footed cocksucker. You had to shoot your gun off, though. Like no fucking getaway is fucking complete without some duck-billed cocksucker shooting off his gun.
(Note: the Kemlworth Police report unexplained shots fired on the 2600 block of Westmoreland Ave., 2340 hrs., 4/16/59).
Di Pasquale: Hey, quack, quack. It worked. We’ve got it stashed nice and safe and
Malvaso: And too fucking public for my taste.
Di Pasquale: Quack, quack. Sixty days ain’t too long to wait for the split Donald’s been waiting fucking twenty years to bang Daisy, ‘cause Walt Disney won’t let him. Hey, remember last year? Jewboy Lenny did my birthday party? He did that routine where Daisy’s sucking Donald off with her beak, what a fucking roar.
Malvaso: Quack, quack, you cocksucker.
(Note: construction noise obscured the rest of this conversation. Door slam sounds at 2310 hrs.)
Littell checked the THP ID file. Malvaso and Di Pasquale lived in Evanston.
He played the 4/18/59 tape and compared it to the typed transcript. Russ Davis forgot to include departing shtick.
The Duck hummed “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Malvaso sang, “I got the key to your heart.”
o o o
“Too public,” “key” and “choo choo.” Two suburban-situated robbers waiting sixty days for their split.
There were forty-odd suburban train stations linked to Chicago.
With forty-odd waiting rooms lined with storage lockers.
The lockers were rented by the month. For cash only, with no records kept, with no-name receipts issued.
Two robbers. Two separate key locks per locker door.
The locks were changed every ninety days-per Illinois TA law.
Thousands of lockers. Unmarked keys. Sixty days until the split-with thirty-three already elapsed.
The lockers were steel-plated. The waiting rooms were guarded 24 hours.
Littell spent two full days thinking it through. It came down to this:
He could tail them. But when they picked up the money, he’d be helpless.
He could only tail them one at a time. It came down to this: pre-existing bad odds doubled against him.
He decided to try anyway. He decided to pad his Red Squad reports and tail the men on alternate days for one week.
Day one: He tails Rocco Malvaso from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. Rocco drives to his numbers dens, his union shops and his girlfriend’s place in Glencoe.
Rocco goes nowhere near a train station.
Day two: He tails Dewey the Duck from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. Dewey drives to numerous prostitution collections.
Dewey goes nowhere near a train station.
Day three: He tails Rocco Malvaso from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. Rocco drives to Milwaukee and pistol-whips recalcitrant pimps.
Rocco goes nowhere near a train station.
Day four: He tails Dewey the Duck from 8:00 a.m. to midnight Dewey entertains at Dewey Junior’s outdoor birthday party, dressed up as Donald Duck.
Dewey goes nowhere near a train station.
Day five: He tails Rocco Malvaso from 8:00 a.m. to midnight. Rocco spends said time with a call girl at the Blackhawk Hotel in Chicago.
Rocco goes nowhere near a train station.
Day six, 8:00 a.m.: He picks up his tail on Dewey the Duck. 9:40 a.m.: Dewey’s car won’t start. Mrs. Duck drives Dewey to the Evanston train station.
Dewey loiters in the waiting room.
Dewey eyes the lockers.
Locker #19 is affixed with a Donald Duck decal.
Littell almost swoons.
Nights six, seven and eight: He stakes out the station. He learns that the watchman leaves for his coffee break at 3:10 a.m.
The man walks down the street to an all-night diner. The waiting room is left unguarded for at least eighteen minutes.
Night nine: He hits the station. He’s armed with a crowbar, tin snips, a mallet and a chisel. He snaps the door off locker 19 and steals the four grocery bags full of money inside.
It totals $81,492.
He now has an informant fund. The bills are old and well circulated.
He gives Mad Sal ten thousand dollars for starters.
He finds the Jack Ruby look-alike wino and gives him five hundred.
The Cook County Morgue supplies him with a name. Icepick Tony Iannone’s lover was one Bruce William Sifakis. He sends the boy’s parents ten thousand dollars anonymously.
He drops five thousand in the poor box at Saint Anatole’s and stays to pray.
He asks forgiveness for his hubris. He tells God that he has gained his selffiood at great cost to other people. He tells God that he loves danger now, and it thrills him much more than it frightens him.
The plane taxied in. Pete got out his passport and a fat roll of ten-spots.
The passport was Canadian, and CIA-forged.
Militiamen hit the runway. The Cuban fuzz tapped all the Key West flights for handouts.
Boyd called him two days ago. He said John Stanton and Guy Banister dug that old Big Pete panache. Boyd had just signed on with the Agency. He said he had a tailor-made Big Pete job, which might prove to be a CIA audition run.
He said, “You fly from Key West to Havana under a Canadian passport. You speak French-accented English. You find out where Santo Trafficante is and take delivery of a note from him. The note should be addressed to Carlos Marcello, Johnny Rosselli and Sam Giancana, et al. It should state that Trafficante advises no Mob retaliation against Castro for nationalizing the casinos. You’re also to locate a very frightened United Fruit executive named Thomas Gordean and bring him back with you for debriefing. This has to be accomplished very soon-Castro and Ike are set to permanently cancel all commercial flights running from the U.S. to Cuba.”
Pete said, “Why me?”
Boyd said, “Because you can handle yourself. Because the cabstand gave you a crash course in Cubans. Because you’re not a known Mob man that Castro’s secret police might have a file on.”
Pete said, “What’s the pay?”
Boyd said, “Five thousand dollars. And if you’re detained, the same diplomatic courier who’s trying to get Trafficante and some other Americans out will arrange for your release. It’s just a matter of time before Castro releases all foreign nationals.”
Pete wavered. Boyd said, “You’ll also receive my personal promise that Ward Littell-a very disturbed and dangerous man- will never touch you. In fact, I set you up with Lenny Sands to buffer the two of you.”
Boyd said, “If the Cuban cops roust you, tell the truth.”
The doors opened. Pete stuck a ten-dollar bill inside his passport. Militiamen climbed into the plane.
They wore mismatched gun belts and carried odd pistols. Their shirt-front regalia was straight out of some Kellogg’s Corn Flakes box.
Pete squeezed up toward the cockpit. Arc lights strafed the doorways and windows. He walked down the ramp ducking blinding goddamn glare.
A guard snatched his passport. The ten-spot disappeared. The guard bowed and handed him a beer.
The other passengers filed out. Militia geeks checked their passports for tips and came up empty.
The boss guard shook his head. His minions confiscated purses and wallets. A man protested and tried to hold on to his billfold.
The spics laid him out prone on the runway. They cut his trousers off with razor blades and picked his pockets clean.
The other passengers quit squawking. The boss guard rifled through their stuff.
Pete sipped beer. Some guards walked up with their hands out.
He greased them, one ten-spot per hand. He goofed on their uniforms: lots of frayed khaki and epaulets like the ushers at Grauman’s Chinese.
A little spic waved a camera. “You play futbol, hombre? Hey, big man, you play futbol?”
Somebody lobbed a football. Pete caught it one-handed. A flashbulb popped right upside his face.
Get the picture? They want you to pose.
He crouched low and waved the ball like Johnny Unitas. He went deep for a pass, blocked an invisible lineman and bounced the ball off his head like a nigger soccer ace he saw on TV once.
The spics clapped. The spics cheered. Flashbulbs pop-pop-popped.
Somebody yelled, “Hey, eees Robert Mitchum!”
Peasant types ran out on the runway, waving autograph books. Pete ran for a taxi stand by the gate.
Little kids urged him on. Cab doors opened, presto chango.
Pete dodged an oxcart and piled into an old Chevy. The driver said, “Joo are not Robert Mitchum.”
o o o
They cruised Havana. Animals and street riffraff clogged traffic. They never got above ten miles an hour.
It was 92 degrees at 10:00 p.m. Half the geeks out on the stroll wore fatigues and full Jesus Christ beards.
Dig those whitewashed Spanish-style buildings. Dig the posters on every facade: Fidel Castro smiling, Fidel Castro shouting, Fidel Castro waving a cigar.
Pete flashed the snapshot Boyd gave him. “Do you know this man?”
The driver said, “Sн It is Mr. Santo Junior. He is in custody at the Nacional Hotel.”
“Why don’t you take me there.”
Pancho hung a U-turn. Pete saw hotel row up ahead-a line of half-assed skyscrapers facing the beach.
Lights sparkled down on the water. A big stretch of glow lit the waves up turquoise blue.
The cab pulled up to the Nacional. Bellboys swooped down- clowns in threadbare tuxedos. Pete whipped a ten-spot on the driver-the fuck almost wept.
The bellboys stuck their hands out. Pete lubed them at the rate of ten scoots per. A cordon pushed him into the casino.
The joint was packed. Commies dug capitalisto-style gambling.
The croupiers wore shoulder holsters. Militia geeks ran the blackjack table. The clientele was 100% beaner.
Goats roamed free. Dogs splashed in a crap table filled with water. Dig the floorshow back by the slot machines: an Airedale and a Chihuahua fucking.
Pete grabbed a bellboy and yelled in his ear. “Santo Trafficante. You know him?”
Three hands appeared. Three tens went out. Somebody pushed him into an elevator.
Fidel Castro’s Cuba should be renamed Nigger Heaven.
The elevator zoomed up. A militiaman opened the door gun first.
Dollar bills dripped out of his pockets. Pete added a ten-spot. The gun disappeared, rбpidamente.
“Did you wish to enter custody, seсor? The fee is fifty dollars a day.”
“What does that include?”
“It includes a room with a television, gounnet food, gambling and women. You see, American passport holders are being temporarily detained here in Cuba, and Havana itself is momentarily unsafe. Why not enjoy your detention in luxury?”
Pete flashed his passport. “I’m Canadian.”
“Yes. And of French distraction, I can tell.”
Steam trays lined the hallway. Bellboys pushed cocktail carts by. A goat was taking a shit on the carpet two doors down.
Pete laughed. “Your guy Castro’s some innkeeper.”
“Yes. Even Mr. Santo Trafficante Jr. concedes that there are no four-star jails in America.”
“I’d like to see Mr. Trafficante.”
“Please follow me, then.”
Pete fell in step. Boozed-out gringo fat cats careened down the hallway. The guard pointed out custody high spots.
Suite 2314 featured stag films screened on a bedsheet. Suite 2319 featured roulette, craps and baccarat. Suite 2329 featured naked hookers on call. Suite 2333 featured a live lesbian peep show. Suite 2341 featured suckling pigs broiled on a spit. Suites 2350 through 2390 comprised a full-size golf driving range.
A spic caddy squeezed by them schlepping clubs. The guard clicked his heels outside 2394.
“Mr. Santo, you have a visitor!”
Santo Trafficante Jr. opened the door.
He was fortyish and pudgy. He wore nubby-silk Bermuda shorts and glasses.
The guard scooted off. Trafficante said, “The two things I hate most are Communists and chaos.”
“Mr. Trafficante, I’m-”
“I’ve got eyes. Four, in fact. You’re Pete Bondurant, who clips guys for Jimmy. Some six-foot-six gorilla knocks on my door and acts servile, I put two and two together.”
Pete walked into the room. Trafficante smiled.
“Did you come to bring me back?”
“Jimmy sent you, right?”
“Mo? Carlos? I’m so fucking bored I’m playing guessing games with a six-foot-six gorilla. Hey, what’s the difference between a gorilla and a nigger?”
Pete said, “Nothing?”
Trafficante sighed. “You heard it already, you hump. My father killed a guy once who spoiled one of his punch lines. Maybe you’ve heard of my father?”
“Santo Trafficante Senior?”
“Salud, Frenchman. Jesus, I’m so fucking bored I’m playing one-up with a gorilla.”
Pig grease spattered out a cooling vent The pad was furnished modern-ugly-lots of fucked-up color combos.
Trafficante scratched his balls. “So who sent you?”
“A CIA man named Boyd.”
“The only CIA guy I know is a redneck named Chuck Rogers.”
“I know Rogers.”
Trafficante shut the door. “I know you know him. I know the whole story of you and the cabstand, and you and Fulo and Rogers, and I know stories about you that I bet you wished I didn’t know. You know how I know? I know because everybody in this life of ours likes to talk. And the only fucking saving grace is that none of us talks to people outside the life.”
Pete looked out the window. The ocean glowed turquoise blue way past the buoy line.
“Boyd wants you to write a note to Carlos Marcello, Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli. The note’s supposed to say that you recommend no reprisals against Castro for nationalizing the casinos. I think the Agency’s afraid the Outfit will go off half-cocked and screw up their own Cuban plans.”
Trafficante grabbed a scratch pad and pen off the TV. He wrote fast and enunciated clearly.
“Dear Premier Castro, you Commie dog turd. Your revolution is a crock of Commie shit. We paid you good money to let us keep our casinos running if you took over, but you took our money and fucked us up the brown trail until we bled. You are a bigger piece of shit than that faggot Bobby Kennedy and his faggot McClellan Committee. May you personally get syphilis of the brain and the dick, you Commie cocksucker, for fucking up our beautiful Nacional Hotel.”
Golf balls ricocheted down the hallway. Trafficante flinched and held the note up.
Pete read it. Santo Junior delivered-nice, neat, grammatical.
Pete tucked the note in his pockets “Thanks, Mr. Trafficante.”
“You’re fucking welcome, and I can tell you’re surprised that I can write and say two different things at the same time. Now, you tell your Mr. Boyd that that promise is good for one year and no more. Tell him we’re all swimming in the same stream as far as Cuba goes, so it’s in our best interest not to piss in his face.”
“He’ll appreciate it.”
“Appreciate, shit. If you appreciated, you’d take me back with you.”
Pete checked his watch. “I’ve only got two Canadian passports, and I’m supposed to bring back a United Fruit man.”
Trafficante picked up a golf club. “Then I can’t complain. Money’s money, and United Fruit’s tapped more out of Cuba than the Outfit ever did.”
“You’ll get out soon. Some courier’s working on getting all the Americans out.”
Trafficante lined up a make-believe putt. “Good. And I’ll set you up with a guide. He’ll drive you around and take you and the UP man to the airport. He’ll rob you before he drops you off, but that’s as good as the help gets with these fucking Reds in power.”
o o o
A croupier supplied directions to the house-Tom Gordean threw a torch party there just last week. Jesъs the guide said Mr. Tom burned a mean cane field-he was hot to revamp his fascisto image.
Jesъs wore jungle fatigues and a baseball cap. He drove a Volkswagen with a hood-mounted machine gun.
They took dirt roads out of Havana. Jesъs steered with one hand and blasted palm trees simultaneous. Sizzling cane fields lit the sky up orange-pink-torch parties were a big deal in postBatista Cuba.
Phone poles blipped by. Fidel Castro’s face adorned every one.
Pete saw house lights in the distance-two hundred yards or so up. Jesъs pulled into a clearing dotted with palm stumps.
He eased in like he knew where he was going. He didn’t gesture or say one fucking word.
It felt wrong. It felt prearranged.
Jesъs braked and doused his headlights. A torch whooshed the second they snapped off.
Light spread out over the clearing. Pete saw a Cadillac ragtop, six spics, and a white man reeling drunk.
Jesъs said, “That is Seсor Tom.”
The spics had sawed-off shotguns. The Caddy was stuffed with luggage and mink coats.
Jesъs jumped out and jabbered spic to the spics. The spics waved to the gringo in the Volkswagen.
The minks were piled above the door line. U.S. currency was bulging out of a suitcase.
Pete caught on, dead solid perfect.
Thomas Gordean was weaving. He was waving a bottle of Demerara rum. He was putting out a line of pro-Commie jive talk.
He was slurring his words. He was dead drunk working on dead.
Pete saw torches ready to light Pete saw a gas can sitting on a tree stump.
Gordean kept spritzing. He got up a fucking A-#l Commie clichй head of steam.
Jesъs huddled with the spics. They waved at the gringo again. Gordean puked on the hood of the Caddy.
Pete slid next to the machine gun. The spics turned away and went for their waistbands.
Pete fired. One tight swivel at their backs cut them down. The ack-ack sent a flock of birds up squawking.
Gordean hit the ground and curled himself up fetal-tight. The bullet spread missed him by inches.
The spics died screaming. Pete strafed their bodies into pulp. Cordite and muzzle-scorched entrails formed one putrid smell combination.
Pete poured gas on the stiffs and the Volkswagen and torched them. A box of.50-caliber ammo exploded.
Seсor Tom Gordean was passed out cold.
Pete tossed him in the backseat of the Caddy. The mink coats made a cozy little bed.
He checked the luggage. He saw a shitload of money and stock certificates.
Their flight left at dawn. Pete found a road map in the glove compartment and marked a route back to Havana.
He got in the Caddy and punched it. French-fried palm trees provided a glow to drive by.
o o o
He made the airport before first light. Friendly militiamen swamped El Seсor Mitchum.
Tom Gordean woke up with the shakes. Pete fed him rum-and-Cokes to keep him docile. The spics nationalized the money and furs-no big surprise.
Pete signed Robert Mitchum autographs. Some Comnue commissar escorted them to the plane.
The pilot said, “You’re not Robert Mitchum.”
Pete said, “No shit, Sherlock.”
Gordean dozed off. The other passengers eyeballed them-they reeked of gasoline and liquor.
The plane landed at 7:00 a.m. Kemper Boyd met them. He handed Pete an envelope containing five thousand dollars.
Boyd was juuuuust a tad nervous. Boyd was more than just a tad dismissive.
He said, “Thanks, Pete. Take that jitney into town with the other people, all right? I’ll call you in L.A. in a few days.”
He got five grand. Boyd got Gordean and a suitcase full of stock shares. Gordean looked bewildered. Boyd looked quintessentially un-Boyd.
Pete hopped on the jitney. He saw Boyd steer Gordean to a storage hut.
Here’s this deserted hick-town airfield. Here’s this CIA man and this drunk, alone.
His feelers started twitching in high fucking gear.
(Key West, 5/29/59)
The hut was matchbook-size. He had to cram the table and two chairs in.
Kemper handled Gordean with kid gloves. The interrogation dragged-his subject had the DTs.
“Does your family know that you possess this United Fruit stock?”
“What ‘family’? I’ve been married and divorced more than Artie Shaw and Mickey Rooney. I’ve got a few cousins in Seattle, but all they know is the way to the bar at the Woodhaven Country Club.”
“Who else in Cuba knows that you own this stock?”
“My bodyguards know. But one minute we’re drinking and getting ready to expunge a few imperialist cane fields, and the next thing I know I’m in the backseat of my car with that buddy of yours at the wheel. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been on a toot, and things are pretty dim. That buddy of yours, does he carry a machine gun?”
“I don’t think so.”
“What about a Volkswagen?”
“Mr. Boyce, or whatever your name is, what’s going on? You sit me down in this shack and ransack my suitcase. You ask me these questions. You think because I’m a rich American businessman that I’m on your side. You think I don’t know how you CIA fuckers rigged the elections in Guatemala? I was on my way to cocktails with Premier Castro when your buddy shanghaied me. That’s Fidel Castro. He’s the liberator of Cuba. He’s a nice man and a wonderful basketball player.”
Kemper laid down his stock release forms. They were superbly forged-a counterfeiter friend did the job.
“Sign these please, Mr. Gordean. They’re reimbursement vouchers for your airfare.”
Gordean signed in triplicate. Kemper signed the notary statement and seal-stamped all three signatures.
His friend rigged the seal, at no extra charge.
Gordean laughed. “CIA man/notary public. What a combo.”
Kemper pulled his.45 and shot him in the head.
Gordean flew off his chair. Blood sprayed out one ear. Kemper stepped on his head to stanch the spritz.
Something rustled outside. Kemper pushed the door open with his gun.
It was Pete Bondurant, standing there with his hands in his pockets.
They both smiled.
Pete drew “50/50” in the air.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 6/11/69. Summary Report: Kemper Boyd to John Stanton. Marked: CONFIDENTIAL/HAND POUCH DELIVER.
I delayed the writing of this communique for two reasons. One, I wanted to seea botched incident through to its conclusion before contacting you. Two, this note details a mission that I (quite frankly) blew.
You had asked me to use my own discretion and send Pete Bondurant on a trial run to help determine his suitability for Agency contract employment. I did this, and sent Bondurant into Cuba to pull out a United Fruit executive named Thomas Gordean, a man whom Teoffflo Paez described as “volatile” and “espousing the Communist line.” Bondurant succeeded in the first part of his mission. We installed Mr. Gordean at the Rusty Soupper Motel in Key West for debriefing, and made the mistake of leaving him alone to rest. Gordean committed suicide with a.45 automatic he had secreted on his person. I summoned the Key West Police, and Bondurant and I debriefed them. A coroner’s jury ruled Gordean’s death a suicide. Bondurant testified as to Gordean’s apparent alcoholism and depressive behavior. An autopsy confirmed that Gordean showed signs of advanced liver damage. His body was shipped to a distant cousin in Seattle (Gordean had no immediate family).
Should you require verification, please contact Captain Hildreth of the Key West Police. Of course, I apologize for this boondoggle. And I assure you that nothing like this will happen again.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 6/19/89. Personal note: John Stanton to Kemper Boyd.
Of course, I am furious. And of course you should have informed me of this snafu immediately. Thank God Gordean had no immediate family capable of causing trouble for the Agency. That expressed, I’ll state that most likely you were to some degree a victim ot mitigating circumstances. After all, as you once said, you are an attorney and a cop, not a spy.
You’ll be pleased to kaow that Deputy Director Bissell is quite taken with your idea of creating an elite cadre to run the Blessington campsite. The campsite is currently under construction; your four personally selected recruits (Paez, Obregon, Delsol, Gutierrez) are undergoing further training at Langley and doing quite well. As previously stated, the Deputy Director has approved the hiring of Pete Bondurant to run the campsite. That, of course, was before the Gordean snafu. Eight now, I want to wait and reconsider Bondurant.
In conclusion, the Gordean incident sits poorly with me, but my enthusiasm for you as a contract agent remains strong. Until I tell you otherwise, undertake no more missions on your own authority.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 6/28/59. Personal note: Ward J. Littell to Kemper Boyd. “For editing and forwarding to Robert F. Kennedy.”
My anti-Mob intelligence gathering continues apace. I now have several independently gleaned indications that alternative (most likely coded) Teamster Pension Fund books do exist. Lenny Sands believes they exist. Sal D’Onofrio has heard rumors to that effect. Other sources have supplied rumors: a retired Chicago Mob man administers the books; Sam Giancana serves as the Pension Fund’s “Chief Loan Approval Officer.” As pervasive as these rumors are, I have nothing resembling corroboration. And of oourse I won’t, until I can suborn a cosmetic borrower and gain some kind of literal access to the Fund itself.
And (on May 18th) I coerced a third informant into my stable. This man (a Dallas-based strip club operator/loan shark) is searching for a borrower to refer to Sal D’Onofrio and thence to Sam Giancana. I consider this man to be a major informant, because he previously referred a loan seeker to Giancana and thp Pension Fund. He calls me at a pay phone near my apartment every Thesday morning; I have given him money on several occasions. He fears me and respects me to just the right degree. Like Sal D’Onofrio, he has perpetual money troubles. I believe that, sooner or later, he will supply me with a potentially subornable borrower.
I also now have a fund of my own, i.e., an informant fund. In late May I secured an $81,000 robbery stash, one unreported to any police agency. I have paid Sal D’Onofrio $32,000 from this fund, strengthening my hold over him. Strange, but I had originally thought that Lenny Sands would be my most valued informant, but both Sal and the Dallas man have proven themselves more competent (or is It more desperate for money)? I blame you, Kemper. Setting Lenny up with Pete Bondurant and Hush-Hush was detrimental to my purposes. Lenny has seemed abstracted lately. He travels with Sal’s junket tours and moonlights for Hush-Hush, and seems to have forgotten what I hold over him. Does he talk to your friend Miss Hughes? I’d be curious to know.
Per your instructions, I’m avoiding Court Meade and the listening post. Court and I have also formally ceased our assignment trade. I’m being careful, but I can’t help dreaming utopian dreams. My essential dream? A John F. Kennedy Presidential Administration, with Robert Kennedy fulfilling his brother’s anti-Mob mandate. God, Kemper, wouldn’t that be heaven? Tell Mr. Kennedy he’s in my prayers.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 7/3/59. Personal note: Kemper Boyd to Robert F. Kennedy.
Just a short note to update you on the work of your anonymous colleague the “Chicago Phantom.”
He’s working hard, and I hope you find it gratifying that there’s at least one human being on earth who hates Organized Crime as much as you do. But, as hard as he is working-and always within the legal guidelines you set down to me-he’s getting scant results pursuing the possibility that alternative Pension Fund books exist. The Chicago Mob is a closed circle, and he hasn’t been able to gain the inside information he hoped he would.
Moving along. Aren’t you and Jack going to offer me some post-McClellan Committee employment?
DOCUMENT INSERT: 7/9/59. Personal Letter: Robert F. Kennedy to Kemper Boyd.
Thanks for your note on the Phantom. It is good to know that an ex-seminarian FBI man shares my anti-Mob fervor, and what most impresses me about him is that he doesn’t seem to want anything. (Jesuit sem boys are schooled in selfdenial.) You, however, want everything. So, yes, Jack and I have an offer for you. (We’ll discuss details and money later.)
We want you to stay with our organization and fill two positions. The first: traffic manager for the McClellan Committee’s legal paperwork. We’ve disbanded, but like the Phantom, I’m still afire. Let’s keep our anti-Mob and anti-Hoffa momentum going. You could be very helpful in seeing that our evidence gets into the proper investigatory hands. Secondly, Jack’s going to announce his candidacy In January. He wants you to manage security for his primary campaigns and hopefully through to November. How about it?
DOCUMENT INSERT: 7/13/59. Personal note: Kemper Boyd to Robert F. Kennedy.
I accept. Yes, unlike the Phantom I want everything. Let’s nail Jimmy Hoffa and elect Jack president.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 7/27/59. Official FBI telephone call transcript: “Recorded at the Director’s Request”/”Classified Confidential 1-A: Director’s Eyes Only.” Speaking: Director Hoover, Special Agent Kemper Boyd.
JEH: Good morning, Mr. Boyd.
KB: Good morning, Sir.
JEH: Your message mentioned good news.
KB: Excellent news, Sir. The brothers have hired me on a more or less permanent basis.
JEH: In what capacity?
KB: I’m to supervise the routing of McClellan Committee evidence to various grand juries and investigative agencies, and run security for Big Brother’s campaign.
JEH: Little Brother remains persistent on the Hoffa front, then.
KB: He’ll crucify the man sooner or later.
JEH: Catholics have been known to go overboard with the concept of crucifixion.
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: Let’s continue on the Catholic recidivist front. Is Mr. Littell continuing to walk the straight and narrow?
KB: Yes, Sir.
JEH: SAC Leaby has airteled me his Red Squad reports. He appears to be doing a satisfactory job.
KB: You frightened him last year, Sir. He just wants to make it through to his retirement. As I’ve told you, he’s drinking quite a bit and is quite caught up in his affair with Helen Agee.
JEH: Allow me to use “affair” as a segue point. How is your liaison with Miss Laura Hughes progressing?
KB: I’d hardly call it a liaison, Sir.
JEH: Mr. Boyd, you are ta]king to the world’s nonpareil buflshit artist and master of subterfuge. As good as you are at it, and you are brilliantly good, I am better. You are fucking Laura Hughes, and I’m sure you would fuck all the acknowledged Kennedy sisters and old Rose Kennedy herself if you thought it would ingratiate you with Jack. There. That said, what does Miss Hughes have to say about the family?
KB: She limits her anecdotes to her father, Sir. She’s quite vitriolic on the topic of her father and his friends.
KB: Apparently Joe and his old friend Jules Schiffrin secreted Mexican illegals across the border during the ‘20s. They used the men as set construction help when Joe owned the RKO Studio. Joe and Schiffrin used the women sexually, hired them out as domestics, took half their pay for room-and-board, then turned them over to the Border Patrol and had them deported. Schiffrin took a number of the women back to Chicago with him and opened up a whorehouse that catered to mobsters and politicians exclusively. Laura says Joe made a movie surreptitiously at the whorehouse. It’s Huey Long and two Mexican midgets with oversized breasts.
JEH: Miss Hughes is a vivid anecdotist. What does she say about the brothers?
KB: She’s guarded about them.
JEH: As you yourself are.
KB: I’m fond of them, yes.
JEH: I think you’ve set limits to your betrayal. I think you’re unaware of how deeply enthralled you are with that family.
KB: I keep things compartmentalized, Sir.
JEH: Yes, I’ll credit you with that. Now, let’s move to your Cuban emigre compartment. Do you recall telling me that you had access to Cuban exile intelligence?
KB: Of course, Sir. I’ll be sending a detailed summary report along soon.
JEH: Laura Hughes must bequlte expensive.
JEH: Don’t act disingenuous, Kemper. It’s quite obvious the CIA has recruited you. Three paychecks, my lord.
KB: Sir, I keep things compartmentalized.
JEH: You certainly do, and far be it from me to upset those compartments. Good day, Mr. Boyd.
KB: Good day, Sir.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 8/4/59. Hush-Hush stringer report: Lenny Sands to Pete Bondurant.
It’s strange, but every home in captivity seems to want to bite my tush these days, which Is unusual because I’ve been playing some pretty square rooms. As you know, I’ve been working my wop gig with Sal D’Onofrio. We’ve been playing Reno, Vegas, Tahoe, Gardena and some Lake Michigan cruise boats that feature gambling. I’ve been running into fruits galore, a regular Layfayette Escad (butt) drill of fruitness. 1)-Delores’ Drive-In on Wilshire 8e La Cienega In L.A. employs all fruit carhops moonlighting as male prosties. A frequent customer: Adlal (Lay?) Stevenson, 2-time prez’l candidate with pinko (Lavender?) leanings Mr. Hughes probably disapproves of. 2)-Dave Garroway of TV’s Today Show was recently popped for honking young boys in NYC’s Times Square. It was (hush?) hushed up, but “Dave the Slave” as he’s known on the fag circuit was recently spotted at an all-male tomcat house outside Vegas. 3)-I ran into an off-duty Marine Corps lance-corporal in Tahoe. He said he knows a gunnery-sergeant running a fruit roller ring out of Camp Pendleton. It works this way: handsome young jarheads prowl Silverlake (The Swish Alps?) amp; the Sunset Strip amp; entrap homos. They don’t put out amp; shake the fruits down for $. I called the gunnery sgt amp; wired him a C-note. He spilled on some celebrity fruitcakes the fruit roller ring glommed onto. Dig this: Walter Pidgeon (12” wang) bangs boys at a plushly-furnished fag crib in the Los Feliz district. Also, British matinee idol Larry (the Fairy?) Olivier recently took the law Into his own hands when he groped a Marine MP at the Wiltern Theatre. Other homes ID’d by the Fruit Roller Corps include Danny Kaye, Liberace (big surprise), Monty Clift amp; conductor Leonard Bernstein. Hey, have you noticed I’m starting to write in the Hush-Hush style? More later.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 8/12/59. Personal memorandum: Kemper Boyd to John Stanton. Marked: CONFIDENTIAL/HAND POUCH DELIVER.
Some further thoughts on Pete Bondurant, the Tiger Kab stand and our elite Cadre.
The more I think about it, the more I see Tiger Kab as the potential hub for our Miami activities. I broached this thought to Fulo Machado (a former Castroite now bristlingly anti-Castro), the cabstand co-dispatcher and a close friend of contract agent Chuck Rogers. Machado shared my enthusiasm. He agreed to let Rogers take over as permanent cabstand dispatcher-boss. Fulo got approval from Jimmy Hoffa, who frankly prefers white men in supervisory positions. Fulo is now recruiting for us, on the cabstand payroll. Hoffa knows that cooperating with the Agency is smart business. He sees Cuba as our common cause, far-sighted for such a brutal and single-minded man.
I would like to propose Fulo Machado as the fifth member of our cadre. I would also like you to allow Rogers to hire Tomas Obregon, Wilfredo Olmos Delsol, Teofilio Paez and Ramon Gutierrez as full-time drivers. Although construction of the Blessington campsite is almost complete, we do not have exile recruits to train there. Until more deportees arrive, I think our men can be best utilized recruiting In Miami’s Cuban community.
Per Bondurant. Yes, he (and I) screwed up on the Thomas Gordean matter. But, Bondurant is already employed as Jimmy Haifa’s ad hoc cabstand enforcer. He also secured a note from Santo Trafficante personally requesting that no Mafia reprisals be launched against Castro for nationalizing the Havana casinos. Bondurant forwarded this note to S. Giancana, C. Marcello and J. Rosselli. All three agree with Trafficante’s reasoning. Again, brutal, short-sighted men are cooperating with the Agency out of a sense of common cause.
Bondurant is also the de-facto editor of a scandal magazine we can use as a counterintelligence organ. And, finally, I think he’s the best man alive to run the campsite. They don’t come any tougher, as I think any local rednecks who toy with him will discover.
What do you think of my proposals?
DOCUMENT INSERT: 8/19/59. Personal memo: John Stanton to Kemper Boyd.
You batted 1000%. Yes, Machado can join the Cadre. Yes, Rogers can hire Delsol, Obregon, Paez and Gutierrez as drivers. Yes, have them recruit in Miami. Yes, hire Pete Bondurant to run Blessington, but have him retain his job with Howard Hughes as well. Hughes is a potentially valuable ally, and we don’t want him estranged from the Agency.
Good work, Kemper.
DOCUMENT INSERT: 8/21/59. Teletype report: Intelligence Division, Los Angeles Police Department, to SA Ward J. Littell, Chicago FBI. Sent “Private Mail Closure” to BA Littell’s home address.
Per your: telephone query on Salvatore D’Onofrio’s recent Los Angeles activities. Be advised that:
The subject was spot-surveilled as a known underworld figure.
He was seen borrowing money from Independent shylocks. Subsequent questioning of said shylocks revealed that the subject told them he would give them “big kickbacks” for referring “highticket” loan-seekers to him. The subject was also seen betting heavily at Santa Anita Racetrack. Surveilling officers heard the subject tell a just-met acquaintance: “I’ve blown half the wad my sugar daddy-o gave me already.”
The subject was observed behaving in an erratic fashion during his gambling junket engagement at the Lucky Nugget Casino in Gardena. His junket companion, Leonard Joseph Seidelwitz (AKA Lenny Sands), also a known underworld figure, was seen entering various homosexual cocktail lounges. It should be noted that Beidelwitz’s junket skits have become increasingly obscene and violently anti-homosexual.
Should you require further information, please let me know.
James E. Hamilton
Captain, Intelligence Division,
Los Angeles Police Department
The amp made small talk boom. Littell picked up mobster amenities.
He wire-linked Mad Sal’s parlor to his back bedroom closet. He overmiked the walls and got excessive voice vibrato.
The closet was hot and cramped. Littell sweated up his headset.
Talking: Mad Sal and “movie producer” Sid Kabikoff.
Sal went on a gambling binge. Littell confronted him with an LAPD teletype describing his actions. Sal said he blew the fiftyodd grand Littell gave him.
The train-locker heist stood unsolved-Sal didn’t know where the cash came from. The tailor-shop bug blasted scuttlebutt on the topic-but Malvaso and the Duck remained clueless.
Then Jack Ruby called him.
And said, “I finally got a guy for Sal D. to goose up to the Pension Fund.”
His informants were in sync-except for Lenny Sands.
Littell wiped off his headset. Kabikoff spoke, overamp loud: “…and Heshie says his blow-job tally’s closing in on twenty thousand.”
Mad Sal: “Sid, Sid the Yid. You didn’t fly up from bumfuck Texas to schmooze the grapevine with me.”
Kabikoff: “You’re right, Sal. I was passing through Dallas and had a schmooze with Jack Ruby. Jack said, ‘See Sal D. In Chicago. Sal’s the man to see for a big vigorish loan from the Pension Fund.’ Jack said, ‘Sal’s the middleman. He can fix you up with Momo and above. Sal’s the man with access to the money.’”
Mad Sal: “You say ‘Momo’ like you think you’re some kind of made guy.”
Kabikoff: “It’s like you talking Yiddish. Everybody wants to think they’re connected. Everybody wants to be in the loop.”
Mad Sal: “The Loop’s downtown, you fat bagel bender.”
Kabikoff: “Sal, Sal.”
Mad Sal: “Sal, my big fat braciola, you lox jockey. Now you tell me the scheme, ‘cause there’s gotta be a scheme, ‘cause you ain’t tapping the Fund for your little bagel biter’s bar mitzvah.”
Kabikoff: “The scheme is smut movies, Sal. I’ve been shooting smut down in Mexico for a year now. T.J., Juarez, you can get talent cheap down there.” -
Mad Sal: “Get to it. Cut the fucking travelogue.”
Kabikoff: “Hey, I’m setting a mood.”
Mad Sal: “I’ll mood you, you mameluke.”
Kabikoff: “Sal, Sal. I’ve been shooting smut. I’m good at it. In fact, I’m shooting a picture down in Mexico in a couple of days. I’m using some strippers from Jack’s club. It’s going to be great- Jack’s got some gorgeous gash working for him. Sal, Sal, don’t look at me that way. What I want to do is this. I want to make legit horror and action pictures with smut-movie casts. I want to book the legit pictures into the bottom half of double features ahd film the pornographic shit to help defer costs. Sal, Sal, don’t frown like that. It’s a moneymaker. I’ll cut Sam and the Pension Fund in for 50% of my profits plus my payback and vigorish. Sal, listen to me. This deal has got ‘Moneymaker’ scrawled across the fucking stars in fucking neon.”
Silence-twenty-six seconds worth.
Kabikoff: “Sal, quit giving me the evil eye and listen. This deal is a moneymaker, and I want to keep it in the loop. You know, in a way, the Fund and me go way back. See, I heard Jules Schiffrin’s the bookkeeper for the Fund. You know, for the real books that people outside the loop don’t know about. See, I knew Jules way back when. Like feature back in the ‘20s even, when he was selling dope and using the profits to finance movies with RKO back when Joe Kennedy owned it. Tell Sam to remember me to Jules, okay? Just to remind him that I’m a trustworthy guy and I’m still in the loop.”
Littell clamped down on his headphones. Jesus Fucking-
“Jules Schiffrin”/”Fund bookkeeper”/”real books.”
Sweat seeped into the phones-voices fizzed out incoherent. Littell wrote the quotes down verbatim on the closet wall.
Kabikoff: “…so I’m flying back to Texas in a few days. Take my card, Sal. No, take two and give one to Momo. Business cards always make a good impression.”
Littell heard goodbyes and a door slamming. He took off his headset and stared at the words on the wall.
Mad Sal walked up. Fat jiggled under his T-shirt.
“How’d I do? I had to give him some shit or he wouldn’t’ve believed it was the real me.”
“You were good. Now just watch your money. You won’t get another dime from me until I’ve tapped into the Fund.”
“What do I do about Kabikoff?”
“I’ll call you inside a week and tell you whether or not to refer him to Giancana.”
Sal belched. “Call me in L.A. I’m taking another junket out to Gardena.”
Littell stared at the wall. He memorized each and every word and copied them over into his notebook.
Lenny preened and smacked kisses. The junketeers ate it up- go Lenny, go, go, go.
Lenny hated fags. Lenny ate fags like Godzilla ate Tokyo. Lenny ate up the Lucky Nugget lounge.
Pete watched. Lenny spritzed shtick-fag Castro gropes fag Ike at the All-Fag Summit!!!!
“Fidel! Get your beard out of my crotch this instant! Fidel! What a biiiig Havana cigar you have!”
The junketeers loved it. The junketeers thought it was high-tone political satire.
Pete was bored. Stale shtick and stale beer-the Lucky Nugget was an armpit.
Dick Steisel sent him down. Dick had a grievance: Lenny’s recent shit was too coarse to print. Hughes and Hoover loved it- but random homo slurs could deep-six Hush-Hush.
“Fidel! Pass me the K-Y, and we’ll renew diplomatic relations! Fidel! My hemorrhoids are burning up like a United Fruit cane field!”
Kemper Boyd thought Lenny had talent Kemper had a brainstorm: Let’s dispense anti-Castro rage through Hush-Hush!
Lenny could write the stuff up. Lenny used to run bag to Batista-he knew the turf and the style, and Cuban Commies couldn’t sue.
Lenny cranked shtick. Pete screened 10:00 p.m. daydreams. THAT MOMENT flashed by in Technicolor.
There’s Tom Gordean, dead. There’s Boyd, smiling. There’s the suitcase full of UF stock.
They cut their deal right there beside the body. They rented a motel room, popped a shot off and rigged Gordean in a suicide pose. The stupid Key West cops bought the charade.
Boyd sold the stock. They made $131,000 apiece.
They met in D.C. for the split. Boyd said, “I can get you in on the Cuban thing, but it will probably take months. I’ll have to explain the Gordean mission as a fuck-up.”
Pete said, “Tell me more.”
Boyd said, “Go back to L.A., do your Hush-Hush work and baby-sit Howard Hughes. I think Cuba and our combined connections can make us both rich.”
He flew back and did it He told Hughes he might have to go on leave soon.
Hughes was pissed. He unpissed him with a shitload of codeine.
The Cuban Cause had him drooling. He wanted in wicked bad. Santo Trafficante got booted out of Cuba last month, and spread the word that Castro should get butt-fucked for his Crimes Against Casino Profiteering.
Boyd called the cabstand a “potential launching pad.” Boyd had this big throbbing wet dream: Jimmy Hoffa sells Tiger Kab to the Agency.
Chuck Rogers called him once a week. He said the cabstand was running trouble-free. Jimmy Hoffa sent him his monthly 5%-and he wasn’t doing jackshit to earn it.
Boyd had Rogers hire his pet Cubans: Obregуn, Delsol, Paez and Gutierrez. Chuck fired the six pro-Castro geeks on the payroll-the fucks drove off hurling death threats.
Tiger Kab was now 100% anti-Castro.
Lenny ended his routine-with a riff on Adlay Stevenson, King of the Turd Burglars. Pete ducked out behind a standing ovation.
The junketeers loved their Lenny. Lenny brushed through them like a prima diva slumming.
Perk-perk-perk-his feelers kicked in strong. He got this feelerverified idea: Let’s tail the little hump.
o o o
They drove north, with three cars between them. Lenny’s Packard had a big whip antenna-Pete used it as a tracking device.
They took Western Avenue up to L.A. proper. Lenny swung west on Wilshire and north on Doheny. Traffic had thinned out- Pete hung back and cut the boy some slack.
Lenny turned east on Santa Monica. Pete grooved on the string of fruit bars-the 4-Star, the Klondike, some new ones. It was Memory Lane turf-he extorted every joint on the row back in his Sheriff’s days.
Lenny hugged the curb, slooow cruising. He passed the Tropics, the Orchid and Larry’s Lasso Room.
Lenny, don’t wear your hate so fucking outrй and naked.
Pete dawdled two car lengths back. Lenny pulled into the parking lot behind Nat’s Nest
Big Pete’s got X-ray eyes. Big Pete’s like Superman and the Green Hornet.
Pete circled the block and cruised through the lot. Lenny’s car was parked by the back door.
Pete wrote out a note.
If you get lucky, send him home. Meet me at Stan’s Drive-In at Sunset amp; Highland. I’ll stay there until after bar closing time.
He stuck the note to Lenny’s windshield. A fruit swished by and checked him out head-to-toe.
o o o
Pete ate in his car. He had two chili burgers, French fries and coffee.
Carhops skated by. They wore leotards, push-up bras and tights.
Gail Hendee used to call him a voyeur. It always jazzed him when women nailed his shit.
The carhops looked good. Hauling trays on skates kept them trim. The blonde lugging hot fudge sundaes looked like good shakedown bait.
Pete ordered peach pie a Ia mode. The blonde brought it to him. He saw Lenny walking up to the car.
He opened the passenger door and slid in.
He looked stoic. The prima diva was one tough little fruitfly.
Pete lit a cigarette. “You told me you were too smart to fuck with me. Does that still hold?”
“Is this what Kemper Boyd and Ward Littell have on you?”
“‘This’? Yeah, ‘this’ is.”
“I don’t buy it, Lenny, and I don’t think Sam Giancana would care in the long run. I think I could call Sam right now and say, ‘Lenny Sands fucks boys,’ and he’d be shocked for a couple of minutes, then sit on the information. If Boyd and Littell tried to bluff you with that, I think you’d have the brains and the stones to call them on it.”
Lenny shrugged. “Littell said he’d spill to Sam and the cops.”
Pete dropped his cigarette in his water glass. “I’m not buying. Now, you see that brunette on skates over there?”
“I see her.”
“I want you to tell me what Boyd and Littell squeezed you with by the time she gets over to that blue Chevy.”
“Suppose I can’t remember?”
“Then figure everything you’ve heard about me is true, and take it from there.”
Lenny smiled, prima-diva-style. “I killed Tony Iannone, and Littell made me for it.”
Pete whistled. “I’m impressed. Tony was a rough boy.”
“Don’t string me along, Pete. Just tell me what you’re going to do about it.”
“The answer’s nothing. All this secret shit of yours goes no further.”
“I’ll try to believe it.”
“You can believe that Littell and I go back awhile, and I don’t like him. Boyd and me are friendly, but Littell’s something else. I can’t lean on him without pissing off Boyd, but if he ever gets too rowdy with you, let me know.”
Lenny bristled and clenched up. “I don’t need a protector. I’m not that kind of…”
Carhops zigzagged by. Pete rolled down his back window for some air.
“You’ve got credentials, Lenny. What you do in your spare time is your business.”
“You’re an enlightened guy.”
“Thanks. Now, do you feel like telling me who or what you’re snitching for Littell?”
“Just plain ‘No’?”
“I want to keep working for you. Let me out of here with something, all right?”
Pete popped the passenger door latch. “No more fag stuff for Hush-Hush. From now on you write anti-Castro, anti-Commie stuff exclusively. I want you to write the pieces directly for the magazine. I’ll get you some information, and you can make the rest of the shit up. You’ve been to Cuba, and you know Mr. Hughes’ politics. Take it from there.”
“Is that all?”
“Unless you want pie and coffee.”
o o o
Lenny Sands fucks boys. Howard Hughes lends Dick Nixon’s brother money.
Big Pete wants a woman. Extortion experience preferred, but not mandatory.
o o o
The phone rang too fucking early.
Pete picked up. “Yeah?”
“Kemper, shit, what time is it?”
“You’re hired, Pete. Stanton’s putting you on immediate contract status. You’re going to be running the Blessington campsite.”
Pete rubbed his eyes. “That’s the official gig, but what’s ours?”
“We’re going to facilitate a collaboration between the CIA and organized crime.”
(New York City, 8/26/59)
Joe Kennedy handed out presidential-sealed tie pins. The Carlyle suite took on a fake-presidential glow.
Bobby looked bored. Jack looked amused. Kemper pinned his necktie to his shirt.
Jack said, “Kemper’s a thief.”
Bobby said, “We came here to discuss the campaign, remember?”
Kemper brushed lint off his trousers. He wore a seersucker suit and white bucks-Joe called him an ice-cream jockey out of work.
Laura loved the outfit. He bought it with his stock-theft money. It was good summertime wedding attire.
Joe said, “FDR gave me those pins. I kept them because I knew I’d host a meeting like this one day.”
Joe wanted an event The butler had arranged hors d’oeuvres on a sideboard near their chairs.
Bobby pulled off his necktie. “My book will be published in hardback in February, about a month after Jack announces. The paperback edition will come out in July, right around the time of the convention. I’m hoping it will put the whole Hoffa crusade in perspective. We don’t want Jack’s association with the McClellan Conmiittee to hurt him with labor.”
Jack laughed. “That goddamn book’s eating up all your time. You should get a ghost writer. I did, and I won the Pulitzer Prize.”
Joe smeared caviar on a cracker. “I heard Kemper wanted his name deleted from the text. That’s too bad, because then you could have titled it The Ice Cream Jockey Within.”
Kemper toyed with his tie pin. “There’s a million car thievesout there who hate me, Mr. Kennedy. I’d prefer that they not know what I’m doing.”
Jack said, “Kemper’s the furtive type.”
Joe said, “Yes, and Bobby could learn from him. I’ve said it a thousand times before, and I’ll say it a thousand times again. This hard-on for Jimmy Hoffa and the Mafia is horseshit. You may need those people to help you get out the vote one day, and now you’re adding insult to injury by writing a book on top of chasing them via the goddamn Committee. Kemper plays his cards close to the vest, Bobby. You could learn from him.”
Bobby chuckled. “Enjoy the moment, Kemper. Dad sides against his kids with outsiders present once in a decade.”
Jack lit a cigar. “Sinatra’s pals with those gangster guys. If we need them, we could use him as a go-between.”
Bobby punched a chair cushion. “Frank Sinatra is a cowardly, finger-popping lowlife, and I will never make deals with gangster scum.”
Jack rolled his eyes. Kemper took it as a cue to play middleman.
“I think the book has possibilities. I think we can distribute copies to union members during the primaries and notch some points that way. I’ve made a lot of law-enforcement connections working for the Committee, and I think we can forge an alliance of nominally Republican DAs by pushing Jack’s anticrime credentials.”
Jack blew smoke rings. “Bobby’s the gangbuster, not me.”
Kemper said, “You were on the Committee.”
Bobby smiled. “I’ll portray you heroically, Jack. I won’t say that you and Dad were soft on Hoffa from the gate.”
They all laughed. Bobby grabbed a handful of canapes.
Joe cleared his throat. “Kemper, we invited you to this session chiefly to discuss 1. Edgar Hoover. We should discuss the situation now, because I’m hosting a dinner at Pavillon tonight, and I need to get ready.”
“Do you mean the files that Hoover has on all of you?”
Jack nodded. “I was thinking specifically of a romance I had during the war. I’ve heard that Hoover’s convinced himself that the woman was a Nazi spy.”
“Do you mean Inga Arvad?”
Kemper snatched one of Bobby’s canapes. “Mr. Hoover has that documented, yes. He bragged about it to me years ago. May I make a suggestion and clear the air about something?”
Joe nodded. Jack and Bobby pushed up to the edge of their chairs.
Kemper leaned toward them. “I’m sure Mr. Hoover knows that I went to work for the Committee. I’m sure he’s disappointed that I haven’t been in touch with him. Let me re-establish contact and tell him that I’m working for you. Let me assure him that Jack won’t replace him as FBI director if he’s elected.”
Joe nodded. Jack and Bobby nodded.
“I think it’s a smart, cautious move. And while I’ve got the floor, I’d like to bring up the Cuban issue. Eisenhower and Nixon have declared themselves anti-Castro, and I’ve been thinking that Jack should establish some anti-Fidel credentials.”
Joe fiddled with his tie pin. “Everybody’s starting to hate Castro. I don’t see Cuba as a partisan issue.”
Jack said, “Dad’s right. But I’ve been thinking that I might send some Marines down if I’m elected.”
Joe said, “When you’re elected.”
“Right. I’ll send some Marines down to liberate the whorehouses. Kemper can lead the troops. I’ll have him establish a spearhead in Havana.”
Joe winked. “Don’t forget your spear, Kemper.”
“I won’t. And seriously, I’ll keep you posted on the Cuban front. I know some ex-FBI men with good anti-Castro intelligence.”
Bobby brushed hair off his forehead. “Speaking of FBI men, how’s the Phantom?”
“In a word, he’s persistent. He’s chasing those Pension Fund books, but he’s not making much headway.”
“He’s starting to impress me as pathetic.”
“Believe me, he’s not.”
“Can I meet him?”
“Not until he retires. He’s afraid of Mr. Hoover.”
Joe said, “We all are.”
o o o
The St. Regis was a slightly downscale Carlyle. Kemper’s suite was a third the size of the Kennedys’. He kept a room at a modest hotel in the West 40s-Jack and Bobby contacted him there.
It was stifling hot outside. The suite was a perfect 68 degrees.
Kemper wrote a note to Mr. Hoover. He said, It’s confirmed-if elected, Jack Kennedy won’t fire you. He played a game of Devil’s Advocate next-his standard post-Kennedyconference ritual.
Doubters questioned his travels. Doubters questioned his complex allegiances.
He sprang logical traps on himself and evaded them brilliantly.
He was seeing Laura tonight-for dinner and a recital at Carnegie Hall. She’d ridicule the pianist’s style and practice his showstopper piece endlessly. It was the Kennedy quintessence: Compete, but don’t go public unless you can win. Laura was halfKennedy and a woman-she possessed competitive spirit but no family sanction. Her half-sisters married skirt chasers and stayed faithful; Laura had affairs. Laura said Joe loved his girls but deep down considered them niggers.
He’d been with Laura for seven months now. The Kennedys had no iniding of the liaison. When an engagement was formal ized, he’d tell them.
They would be shocked, then relieved. They considered him trustworthy and knew that he kept things compartmentalized.
Laura loved ballsy men and the arts. She was a solitary woman-with no real friends except Lenny Sands. She exemplifled the pervasive Kennedy orbit: A mobbed-up lounge lizard gave Jack speech lessons and forged a bond with his half-sister.
That bond was borderline scary. Lenny might tell Laura things. Lenny might tell her grisly stories.
Laura never mentioned Lenny-despite the fact that he facilitated their meeting.
She probably talked to Lenny long-distance.
Lenny was volatile. An angry or frightened Lenny might say:
Mr. Boyd made Mr. Littell hit me. Mr. Boyd and Mr. Littell are nasty extortionists. Mr. Boyd got me my Hush-Hush job-which is very nasty employment.
His Lenny fears peaked in late April.
The Boynton Beach auditions revealed two security risks: a child molester and a homosexual pimp. CIA guidelines mandated termination. He took them out to the Everglades and shot them.
The pimp saw it coming and begged. He shot him in the mouth to cut his squeals off.
He told Claire he killed two men in cold blood. She responded with anti-Communist platitudes.
The pimp reminded him of Lenny. The pimp sparked Devil’s Advocate impromptus that he couldn’t lie his way out of.
Lenny could ruin him with Laura. Further coercion might backfire-Lenny was volatile.
There was no cut-and-dried Lenny solution. Easing Laura’s loneliness might help-she’d be less inclined to contact Lenny.
He brought Claire up from Tulane and introduced her to Laura in mid-May. She was wowed by Laura-a big-city sophisticate ten years her senior. A friendship clicked-the two became great phone chums. Claire joined Laura for occasional weekends, full of concerts and museum tours.
He traveled to earn his three paychecks. His daughter kept his future fiancйe company.
Laura told Claire her whole story. Claire inspired full disclosure. Claire was wowed-My Dad might be the President’s secret brother-in-law someday.
He pimped for the maybe future President. Jack went through his little black book and sideswiped a hundred women inside six months. Sally Lefferts called Jack a de facto rapist. “He backs you into a co